PSYCHOTHERAPY AS PERSONAL CONFESSION
Robert Saltzman, Ph.D.
© Robert Saltzman 1998 All Rights Reserved
In at least two places in his voluminous writings, C.G. Jung stated that any psychology is a "personal confession" (1935/1980, p. 125, and 1929/1979, p. 336). But if a psychology is a personal confession, why do so many theories of human psychology and personality, including some of those called "Jungian," present themselves as if they were factual accounts of how the "mind" works, instead of what, according to Jung, they are: conjectures that reflect the personal subjectivity of their makers? Recent critics of psychotherapy, such as James Hillman, who wrote about the fictional quality of case history, and the necessity of listening to therapeutic dialog as one hears literature, and Robert Stolorow, who tried to show that the therapeutic situation is always a discourse between two subjectivities, have attempted to show that attributing facticity to therapeutic findings is harmful to the patient, to the therapist, and to the culture at large. Nevertheless, the training of therapists, and the practice of therapy still continue as if various theoretical representations of intrapsychic "structures" were not metaphors, or models, but objectively witnessed, universally consistent phenomena, like some of the findings of hard science. This continues even irrespective of poststructural attitudes towards the limitations of language, and the postmodernist deconstruction of truth-claims.
At last count, there were over four
hundred systems of psychotherapy (Corsini and Wedding, 1995) ranging from
classical Freudian psychoanalysis to Lowenian bioenergetics, and from the
existential psychotherapy of Rollo May, to the rebirthing of Stanislaw Grof.
Each of those more than four hundred modes of addressing the human condition
therapeutically rests upon a set of psychological presuppositions, that is upon
a theoretical metapsychology which then implies how therapy should be conducted. To choose one example, the rational emotive behavior therapy of Ellis (1973) is predicated upon the cardinal premise that the chief feature of human beings is their potential to be both rational (self-constructive), and irrational, (self-defeating). In that conception, neurotic problems are imputed to irrational modes of thought and behavior. Accordingly, Ellis suggested a psychotherapy directed towards changing irrational thoughts and behaviors into rational ones, which he proposed be done by exhortation, cognitive reframing, homework assignments, and projects of self-discipline. In rational emotive behavior therapy, the relationship between the therapist and the client is held to be inconsequential; nothing matters beyond changing irrational thinking and behavior into rational thinking and behavior. When that work is done, no matter how, according to Ellis, problems disappear.
Depth psychology would not agree, for the depth perspective moves below the surface appearances of manifested thoughts and behaviors, and into what Hillman (1975) called "the unconscious levels of the psyche--that is, the deeper meanings of the soul" (p. xi). In that panorama, Ellis' tidy division of rational thought from irrational thought appears to constitute a distinction without a difference. From the depth perspective, that is, "from the night side," as Hillman put it, or "from the wrong side," as Guggenb¬ühl-Craig (1995) phrased it, thought itself is irrational because all thought implicates material from the unconscious levels of the psyche. In other words, however logical, or self-constructive an idea may look, ultimately it expresses far more than a simple literal meaning. For every denotation there are manifold connotations. Any notion, however straightforward it may appear, contains, enfolded inextricably within itself, complexities, intimations, latencies, and inferences, which express the soul meanings that were ancestors to the logical enunciation of the idea, and which then travel with it forever as soul sisters to its conspicuous, or rational, meaning. For Jung, that understanding began with his word association experiments which suggested that even individual words deeply touch the psyche, and came to maturity through prolonged experience of his own depths, leading Jung to say that any psychology is a personal confession.
A psychology is a personal confession because the concepts and images of psychology, willy-nilly, constitute a language of the soul that conveys, or at least intimates, the deepest personal needs--the soul needs--of its maker, even beyond the conscious intentions and self-reflective awareness of that person. And while the concepts and images of one person might usefully stimulate another to look more deeply into his or her own interiority, ultimately those concepts and images best serve only their author, since true psychological thinking cannot be founded upon belief, but only upon experience. For a psychotherapist, it is vital that this be understood. When it is not understood, psychological ideas are borrowed from others and used as if they were one-size-fits-all, ultimately wounding both the patient, and the therapist, not to mention weakening the community at large, which draws its strength from diversity, not blind conformity.
This is not to say that a therapist ought to avoid exposure to the psychological theories of others. Following that prescription would be impossible. Training in psychotherapy is based upon reading treatises, often argued with persuasive rhetoric, which attempt to express complex metapsychological notions. Frequently, such works are illuminated by intriguing, dramatic, and sometimes lurid case histories chosen by their authors as ideal exemplars of their psychological hypotheses, and painstakingly interpreted to substantiate the value of those same hypotheses. Besides reading and listening to lectures, comprehensive psychotherapeutic training customarily requires an exhaustive personal psychoanalysis conducted in line with the psychological conceptions of the analyst. In that emotionally charged setting, psychological ideas take on a puissance and authority even greater than when they are read or heard in a classroom. But each item in that impressive onslaught of ideas must be deconstructed, and none simply accepted as a comprehensive "truth." Otherwise all is lost.
How is that crucial work of deconstruction to be accomplished? How can psychological discourse be moved beyond the bailiwick of science, and into the realm of literature, as Hillman recommended? How can the practice of psychotherapy be liberated from the old model of interpretations by an objective analyst met by the patient's subjective resistance, and shifted into the domain of relationships between two subjectivities, as suggested by Stolorow? How does one arrive at seeing and hearing a patient not so much by way of theory, but in spite of it?
In the dissertation that follows, with a view towards deepening my understanding of Jung's assertion that any psychological theory is a personal confession, I will examine the psychological ideas of Freud, and Jung, the primary psychological theorists of this century, the ideas of Heinz Kohut, the originator of self psychology, a major movement in late twentieth century psychotherapeutic practice, and the ideas of James Hillman, a radical critic of psychotherapy, and passionate advocate for extending Jung's ideas beyond the symbolic, into the imaginal.
Chapter I reviews the roots of depth psychotherapy in the early work of Freud, Jung, and Adler with particular attention to revisioning the eventual collapse of relations between Freud and Jung not as the outcome of theoretical differences, but personal ones. The crucial points of Jung's metapsychology are surveyed with a view towards discovering how Jung's theoretical ideas reflected his personal experience, his metaphysical inclinations, and his religious faith.
In Chapter II, the neo-Freudian Self Psychology of Heinz Kohut is given detailed exposition and explanation, including a careful scrutiny of its most famous case study, the Case of Mr. Z. Through interviews with Kohut's colleagues and contemporaries, I will show that the ideas of self psychology were a distillation of Kohut's own psychological organizing principles, that is, a personal confession. In particular, I will offer new evidence that Kohut's metapsychological model, which he declared to have been based upon two five year analyses of "Mr. Z," really was Kohut's own self-analysis. Since the case of Mr. Z has been read as a linchpin of Kohut's theory, this evidence calls into question Kohut's professed methods of collecting data as a "factual" basis for a universal metapsychology, and suggests that systems which claim to treat psychic distress by using conjectural models of intrapsychic functioning may say more about the world view of their creators than about psyche in general.
Chapter III investigates the relationship between metapsychological theory and the practice of clinical psychotherapy. Must a psychotherapist have a theory? What are the possible advantages and disadvantages of bringing a firm theoretical stance into the consulting room? How does commitment to a theory develop, and how can such commitments be recognized and managed? A deliberation of astrology illustrates how commitment to theory as a basis for understanding human character may develop even without good evidence for the theory. An examination of the archetypal psychology of James Hillman shows the strength and subtlety of the human tendency to literalize metaphors and reify ideas, including Hillman's, notwithstanding Hillman's very insistence of that all is fantasy, and that nothing be understood literally.
Chapter IV explores the correlation between the personal and the apparent trans-personal, with particular emphasis on the uncertainty, and ambiguity of that relationship. The paradoxical connection between the conjectural objective reality suggested by numinous experiences, and the manifest subjectivity of psychological experience, which seems to remain always equivocal and particular, is discussed with reference to the ideas of Jung, Hillman, and my own psychotherapeutic practice. It is argued that the problematic relationship between faith and knowledge implies that only a metapsychology that is understood to be a personal confession can provide the compassionate matrix necessary for effective therapeutic work.
The Freud-Jung Break
Students of depth psychology are
familiar with the standard historical explanation of the invention of
psychoanalysis. Briefly, Sigmund Freud's technique of psychoanalysis is said to
have derived from the theory that hysteria--an illness marked by the presence of
symptoms such as paralysis of a limb, inability to speak, or blindness for
which no organic cause could be discovered--might have its etiology in
unconscious wishes or forgotten memories. French neurologist Jean Martin
Charcot, with whom the young Freud studied, attempted to cleanse the mind of
such harmful ideation by means of hypnosis, but his "cures" were not permanent.
Freud went on to work with Viennese physician Josef Breuer, who apparently had
cured a hysterical patient, Anna O., not with hypnosis, but simply by asking
her to empty her mind through telling him about all her thoughts and feelings.
Together, Freud and Breuer refined this "talking cure" as Anna O. had dubbed
it, which they renamed "catharsis," and went on to publish their results in
1895. Soon thereafter, the story goes, Breuer became alarmed by the clinical
implications of Freud's growing insistence that not just any unconscious
wishes, but specifically sexual drives were the basis of neurotic symptoms, and
the two men parted company, leaving Freud alone to further develop the talking
cure into a system of "free association" in which the patient was instructed to
express whatever came to mind. As Freud worked with patients, he came to notice
that their free flow of associations seemed to be stifled at times by what he
posited were their unconsciously motivated resistances to revealing certain
repressed thoughts and memories, especially sexual and
aggressive ideas. Later, Freud theorized that the memories and wishes blocked from conscious awareness by such resistances might be understood and made conscious by the attention of the analyst to the transference, that is the recapitulation in the analytic relationship of emotions, attitudes, and desires that belonged to earlier important relationships, primarily those with parents. Thus, psychoanalysis was born.
In this account, which by now has acquired, as if by the sheer weight of countless repetitions, an aura of accuracy, Alfred Adler, and Carl Jung, both younger contemporaries of Freud, are said at first to have embraced Freud's ideas, but later to have defected from his circle due to clear-cut theoretical disagreements with their older colleague. In Adler's case, it is said that he disagreed with Freud's absolute concentration on sexuality as the primary human instinct, having come to believe that feelings of inferiority, culminating in a failure to find one's proper and productive place in society, were also an important source of neurotic manifestations. Jung, it is said, also doubted that neurosis could be exclusively a manifestation of the sexual instinct gone awry, and particularly disagreed with Freud's definition of libido as entirely sexual energy. In Symbols of Transformation, which first appeared in 1911, Jung postulated that the myths and archaic religious ideas that he had been studying were not simply outgrowths of sublimated sexual, particularly incestuous, drives, as Freud claimed, but that these myths and religious impulses were original manifestations of libido itself, that is, Jung proposed that libido was not simply sexual energy, but rather a kind of multi-valent life-energy that found expression in many forms: creativity, love of nature, religious practices, intellectual pursuits, and so forth.
In the standard version of the so-called Freud-Jung break, their communication and friendship began in 1903 when Jung, having read Freud's The Interpretation of Dreams, sent Freud the results of his own research on the word association test, which seemed to substantiate Freud's theory that dreams are expressions of unfulfilled wishes and desires. It ended abruptly in 1913 when Freud read Symbols of Transformation, and saw that it cast doubt upon his theory of libido.
After receiving Jung's word association paper, Freud had written back, beginning an extensive correspondence, and gradually the two men were drawn together, first meeting in 1907, when, it is reported, they spoke uninterruptedly for more than thirteen hours. Although some of Jung's early letters (see McGuire, 1988) expressed his doubts about Freud's view that the full panoply of human culture could derive solely from sublimated sexual instincts, gradually he seemed to become convinced by the older man's unshakable convictions, and dominating personality--or at least held his doubts in abeyance--and Freud began to think of Jung as his logical successor, as well as an important connection to the gentile world which Freud needed to legitimize his ideas as more than just "Jewish psychology" (Jones, 1953).
By the time of their second meeting, in 1909, the issue of Jung's doubts about Freud's sexual theory had come to dominate their relationship. Jung already had come to feel intuitively that for Freud "sexuality was a sort of numinosum" (Jung, 1965, p. 150). Jung remembered that when discussing sexuality at their first meeting Freud had lost contact with "his normally critical and skeptical manner," and had spoken in an "urgent, almost anxious" tone of voice" (p. 150). Now, three years later, Jung was appalled when Freud said to him,
My dear Jung, promise me never to abandon the sexual theory. That is the most essential thing of all. You see, we must make a dogma of it, an unshakable bulwark. (p. 150)
As Jung recalled,
In some astonishment I asked him, "A bulwark against what?" To which he replied, "Against the black tide of mud'--and here he hesitated for a moment, then added--"of occultism." First of all, it was the words "bulwark" and "dogma" that alarmed me; for a dogma, that is to say, an undisputable confession of faith, is set up only when the aim is to suppress doubts once and for all. (p. 150)
Then, as Jung remembered it, the conversation came to an sudden, embarrassing end. In retrospect, Jung came to believe that for Freud sexuality had taken the place of the godhead in which the determinedly irreligious Freud could not believe. This shift of focus from the divine to the carnal, Jung said, may have served as a pretext, allowing Freud to regard his own passions as "scientifically irreproachable and free from all religious taint" (p. 151), but,
the numinosity, that is, the psychological qualities of the two rationally incommensurable opposites--Yahweh and sexuality--remained the same. The name alone had changed, and with it, of course, the point of view; the lost god had now to be sought below, not above. But what difference does it make, ultimately, to the stronger agency if it is called now by one name and now by another If psychology did not exist, but only concrete objects, the one would actually have been destroyed and replaced by the other. But in reality, that is to say, in psychological experience there is not one whit the less of urgency, anxiety, compulsiveness, etc. The problem still remains: how to overcome or escape our anxiety, bad conscience, guilt, compulsion, unconsciousness, and instinctuality. If we cannot do this from the bright, idealistic side, then perhaps we shall have better luck by approaching the problem from the dark, biological side. (p. 152)
Thus, for Jung, for whom "reality" inhered not in a world of material objects, but in psychological experience, and for whom there was no psychological difference between Yahweh as numinosum and sexuality as numinosum, a chief source of his eventual break with Freud lay not so much in theoretical conflict, as one so often reads, but much more in his personal disappointment in Freud the man. His previously idealized mentor, in whose company Jung had felt himself to be in the presence of genius, was not a fearless explorer of the psychic underworld armed with an unflinching commitment to psychological truth, but a man who lacked the courage to come to grips with the shadowy presence of his own spirituality, a man who used his theories to finesse his fears while claiming for his ideas an scientific facticity that, to Jung, seemed psychologically naive.
Perhaps Jung's disappointment in Freud would not have been so catastrophic if his first acquaintance with Freud's ideas had come a little earlier, for then, Freud, a struggling neurologist, plagued by profound doubts about his qualifications to practice general medicine, and so to earn a living (see Freud's letter to Wilhelm Fleiss in Bonaparte, A. Freud, and Kris, 1954, p. 21), was quite candid in his devotion to a reductionistic, materialistic metapsychology that would seem "scientific," and thus, "medical." Writing in 1895, in his treatise on a Project for a Scientific Psychology, Freud stated that
The intention of this project is to furnish a psychology which shall be a natural science: its aim, that is, is to represent psychical processes as quantitatively determined states of specifiable material particles. (1895/1953a, p. 11)
Herein we see the beginnings of the line of reasoning that reduces soul (the psyche in psychology) to mind, and then further reduces mind to brain. Today, in more subtly refined forms, that same reductionistic scheme, which implicates, in my view, a classic category mistake, seems to influence many workers in psychiatry and psychology. Freud's "specifiable material particles" have become "neurotransmitters." Psyche has been downgraded to an epiphenomenon of the appearance, maintenance, and destruction of the neurotransmitters within the neural synapses. Chemical treatment for such manifestations as anxiety, compulsivity, and depression--symptoms which, for Jung, asked for attention to the conundrums of soul, not the chemistry of synapses--has become almost de rigueur.
By 1900, with the publication of Interpretation of Dreams (Freud, 1900/1953b), where Jung first encountered Freud's metapsychology, Freud's materialistic bias was no longer so baldly apparent. After all, Freud was writing about the occurrence of symbols in dreams, and what could be less materialistic than symbols? But the symbols stood for unfulfilled sexual desires, which, for Freud, were not primarily psychic, but physical. This is demonstrated in his voluminous correspondence with Wilhelm Fleiss (see Bonaparte, A. Freud, and Kris, 1954) in which Fleiss, an otorhinolaryngologist, proposed the theory that the genitalia are connected to the nose through a "reflex connection," which was overactive in neurotic people. Fleiss claimed to be able to cure this "nasal reflex neurosis" by applying cocaine to the nostrils of his patients. Freud concurred, and then upped the ante by writing to Fleiss that neurasthenia undoubtedly had its etiology in a lack of early enough sexual experience (for males), in masturbation, and in coitus interruptus. That Freud was writing about his own sexual experience, and his fears that he himself might be predisposed to sexually induced neurotic symptoms seems probable in the light of his own well documented personal use of cocaine, which he may have consumed, at least at first, as a possible prophylaxis.
Other perspectives on the Freud-Jung break also have little to do with theoretical differences between the two men. Most of them seem, in one way or another, to involve Jung's early idealization of Freud, and then the inevitable subsequent disillusionment which Jung could not tolerate. In 1909, the two men were invited--independently, according to Jung (1965)--to lecture at Clark University in Massachusetts, and had arranged to travel together, along with Sandor Ferenczi, who had not been invited to lecture, but who was accompanying Freud. While waiting to go aboard ship in Bremen, the three men went to dinner. The atmosphere must have been tense, since Ferenczi, who sarcastically had referred to Freud and Jung as "Allah and his prophet," was one of Freud's circle who hated and resented Jung. Later, Ferenczi, along with Otto Rank, Ernest Jones, Karl Abraham, and Hanns Sachs, would create the "secret ring," an association dedicated, with Jung in mind, to maintaining the "purity" of psychoanalysis. The conversation turned to the "peat-bog corpses," well-preserved specimens of prehistoric people discovered in Northern Germany, in which Jung was greatly interested. In the light of Jung's latter work, it seems likely that his interest centered on the idea that these corpses were psychological "ancestors," but Freud did not see it that way. He seemed vexed, and kept asking Jung why he was so interested in the corpses. Finally Freud fainted. Later, Freud explained that Jung's interest in the corpses indicated a death wish towards Freud.
Once aboard ship, the two psychologists analyzed one another's dreams. Jung dreamed of being in a house which at first seemed to have only two storeys, but which, on further investigation, had several sub-basements, each built in a more archaic style than the one above. In the deepest part of the house was a room containing broken ancient pottery and two skulls. Jung imagined that the dream had to do with a descent into the collective background of consciousness, but, mistrusting his judgment in making such a self-interpretation, he consulted Freud. On hearing the dream, Freud insisted that the only point of interest was the two skulls, which indicated death wishes, and he pressed Jung to name his associations to the skulls. Obviously, he feared that the dream, like the peat-bog corpses, indicated Jung's ill-will towards him. To avoid a quarrel with Freud, Jung lied, and named his wife and sister-in-law as associations to the skulls. Clearly, Jung felt it necessary to patronize Freud; intellectual honesty would not be possible.
When Freud related one of his dreams involving some very personal matter, Jung asked for his associations, but Freud refused to give them. Jung insisted, saying that some additional details would help in making the interpretation. According to Jung,
Freud's response to these words was a curious look--a look of the utmost suspicion. Then he said, "But I cannot risk my authority!" At that moment he lost it altogether. That sentence burned itself into my memory; and in it the end of our relationship was already foreshadowed. Freud was placing personal authority above truth. (1965, p. 158)
Again, the problem here was not one of theoretical disagreement, but of personal, that is, psychological, incompatibility. Apparently, Freud harbored impossibly inflated, grandiose needs for idealization, and absolute, unquestioning adherence to his ideas. Jung had been disappointed by his own father, a cleric whose unrelenting, dogmatic protestantism had left the father disappointed in life, and the son spiritually undernourished (Jung, 1965). Now he found that father-son relationship reenacted, and those childhood wounds reactivated by Freud's inability to tolerate any communication that might challenge his own pet doctrines.
Before delivering their lectures at Clark, Freud and Jung, along with Ferenczi, visited A.A. Brill, America's first practicing psychoanalyst, at Columbia University in New York. During that visit, another divisive incident, much less well-known than those recorded in Jung's (1965) reminiscences, and certainly even further from anything theoretical, came to pass. Freud and Jung, along with Brill and Ferenczi, went for a stroll along the Hudson in Riverside Park. Freud, who was bothered by prostate problems, and who had been suffering from indigestion, lost control of his bowels, and soiled his pants. Although the other men tried to make light of it, Freud could not accept his embarrassment as simply a medical problem. The event seemed to remind Freud of his childhood memories of urinating in a flower-pot in his parents' bedroom, which had prompted his father's condemning him as a boy who would never amount to anything. Besides, Freud now was overcome with fear that something similar would happen at the Clark lectures, ruining what he thought of as "the first official recognition of our endeavors" (Goldenberg, 1997, p. 21). According to Goldenberg,
Jung offered to analyze Freud to help him overcome his fears, but the intervention backfired when the disciple pressed his master for some intimate associations. An argument ensued. "I lost, and this incident started the break between us," Jung later recalled. (p. 21)
This last item sounds so much like the earlier incident aboard ship that one wonders if Goldenberg, or perhaps Jung, somehow conflated the two. Nevertheless, it seems clear that Jung and Freud had come to the end of their partnership not for reasons of theoretical disagreement, but because the relationship had run its course psychologically, leaving both men bitterly disappointed, and facing an interpersonal conflict which neither knew how to resolve. For Freud, Jung was like a son whose questioning attitude, seen through the lens of Freud's oedipus complex theory, appeared almost homicidal. For Jung, the relationship with Freud had become a replay of his troubled relations with his own father, whom Jung had wanted to idealize, and whose approval he had dearly craved, but whose inflexible adherence to religious doctrine (from Jung's point of view) made him a distant, disapproving figure. "Oh nonsense," Jung's father would tell him. "You always want to think. One ought not to think, but believe" (Jung, 1965, p. 43).
"One ought not to think, but believe" was a subtext of Freud's communications too, and Freud's "undisputable confession of faith," (supra) which Jung had construed as Freud's needing to replace the numinousity of Yahweh with a numinous sexuality, became the center of a quasi-religious movement. Noll (1997) adduced a collection of scholarly opinion to demonstrate the similarities between the ceremonies of organized religion and the early meetings of Freud's group. Sociologist George Weisz was cited as saying that adherence to the group was "an experience approaching religious conversion" (p. 60). Freud scholar Frank Sulloway commented on the "religious fervor" of the psychoanalysts who seemed to be a "secular priesthood of soul doctors" (p. 60). The sociologists of religion Rodney Stark and William Sims Bainbridge wrote that,
In attacking conventional religions, Psychoanalysis explicitly sought to replace them. For many of Freud's followers, indeed, for an embarrassingly prominent set of his most famous disciples, Psychoanalysis did develop into a religious cult. (p. 61)
According to Szasz (1978), Freud was the "organizer and leader of his own gnostic-messianic movement" (p. 120), and "an angry avenger and domineering founder of a religion (or cult), rather than a dispassionate scientist or compassionate therapist" (p. 155). Szasz seemed to suggest that Freud's lifelong interest in Moses, the founder of a religion, was not just an interest, but an identification, that is, a largely unconscious process whereby Freud modeled his thoughts, feelings, and actions after his mental image of Moses:
Righteous indignation is the mood, more than any other, that characterizes both Moses and Freud. Moses liberated the Jews from Egyptian slavery; Freud sought to liberate the ego from enslavement to the id. Moses took revenge against the Egyptians; Freud, against the Christians. Moses founded Judaism; Freud, psychoanalysis. (p. 155)
Jones (1957), writing about Freud's Moses and Monotheism, viewed the narrowing of Freud's interest in "mankind in general and its religions to the more specific question of the Jews and their religion" as Freud's response to "the unparalleled persecution of his people getting under way in Nazi Germany" (p. 368). But, according to Szasz, it was Freud's "craving for fame and power" that motivated his identification with Moses, leading Freud away from science into religious zealotry:
it is one thing to avenge . . . anti-Semitism as [morally and politically evil]; it is quite another to call the . . . literary result of such a revenge a science or treatment. After all, the view that avenging great wrongs, especially against the Jews, is reserved to God has always stood at the center of the Jewish religion. It is articulated repeatedly in the Bible: in Deuteronomy, "To me belongeth vengeance" (32:35); in Psalms, "O Lord God, to whom vengeance belongeth, shew thyself" (94:13); and even Paul . . . writes in Romans, "vengeance is mine; I will repay, said the Lord" (12:19) Clearly, Freud felt that vengeance was his too. That, perhaps, is what made him the great religious leader he was. (pp. 156-157, emphasis mine)
Max Graf, an early member of Freud's circle, was expelled by Freud as a "heretic." Later, Freud would use that same word, heretic, rife with religious connotations, to refer to Adler and to Jung. As Graf recalled,
The gatherings followed a definite ritual. First, one of the members would present a paper. . . . After a social quarter of an hour the discussion would begin. The last and decisive word was always spoken by Freud himself. There was the atmosphere of the foundation of a religion in that room. Freud himself was its new prophet who made the heretofore prevailing methods of psychological investigation appear superficial. Freud's pupils--all inspired and convinced--were his apostles. . . . Freud began to organize the church with great energy. He was serious and strict in the demands he made of his pupils: he permitted no deviations from his orthodox teachings. (cited by Noll, 1997, p. 59)
That Jung was neither a colleague of Freud's, nor simply a psychologist who respected Freud's theories, but rather a member, until his disillusionment, of Freud's "church," seems evident in his letter to Freud of October, 1907, in which Jung wrote: "My veneration for you has something of the character of a religious crush" (see McGuire, 1988, p. 95). Seen from that vantage, Jung's retrospective assessment of Freud as having been mired in his own rigid dogma seems to contain, at least in part, a projection of Jung's own shadowy needs to approach psychological thinking with religious fervor, eschewing all but the pretense of careful observation in favor of the uncritical attitude of the zealot.
Noll (1994, 1997) developed the idea that Jung's motivations were primarily religious-dogmatic, not scientific, into the stunning conclusions that: 1) Jung intentionally falsified his evidence for a collective unconscious, 2) that Jung was devoted to racial purity, and to resurrecting as a new twentieth-century religion the German Volkish ideas and practices that derived from the ancient Aryan mystery cults, and 3) that Jung intended to elevate himself to the position of the new "Aryan Christ." As Noll interpreted the Freud/Jung relationship, Jung was attracted to psychoanalysis primarily because it promised to fulfill his hunger for a new religion. In support of that thesis, Noll pointed to this February, 1910 letter from Jung to Freud:
The ethical problem of sexual freedom is really enormous and worth the sweat of all noble souls. But 2000 years of Christianity can only be replaced by something equivalent, an irresistible mass movement. . . . I imagine a far finer and more comprehensive task for [psychoanalysis] than alliance with an ethical fraternity. I think we must give it time to infiltrate into people from many centers, to revivify among intellectuals a feeling for symbol and myth, ever so gently to transform Christ back into the soothsaying god of the vine, which he was, and in this way absorb those ecstatic instinctual forces of Christianity for the one purpose of making the cult and the sacred myth what they once were--a drunken feast of joy where man regained the ethos and holiness of an animal. That was the beauty and purpose of classical religion. (McGuire, 1988, p. 294, cited by Noll, 1997, p. 65)
One can only imagine how this fervid mix of Christianity and Dionysia must have struck Freud. Freud had grown up incessantly hounded by the anti-semitism of his childhood classmates. He had been appalled by the abject servility of his father who, when his cap was knocked off by a man who said, "Jew, get off the pavement," had simply retrieved his cap and backed off. And now Jung was suggesting to him that psychoanalysis could be the next "classical religion." Freud immediately answered:
But you mustn't regard me as the founder of a religion. My intentions are not so far-reaching. . . . I am not thinking of a substitute for religion. This need must be sublimated. (Mcguire, 1988, p. 295, cited by Noll, 1997, p. 66)
Thus, each man somehow denounced the other for religious zealotry. Despite his denials, Freud, it seemed, had displaced all of his religious impulses onto his new creation, psychoanalysis, which he then demanded that his followers worship as if it really were numinous. Jung, it appeared, had projected onto Freud, whom he then reproached as dogmatic, his own ambition that a set of interesting psychological observations be transformed into a cult. Less than two years later, not even on speaking terms, the men ended their correspondence, and Jung was expelled from the circle.
The foregoing represents one layer, albeit rudimentary, of a psychobiograpical understanding of the relations between Freud and Jung. The next layer would require looking into the individual psychobiographies of Freud and of Jung with a view towards developing, for example, psychodynamic understandings of Freud's need for such rigid devotion to his ideas, and of Jung's need to attach himself with such devotion to a man who never understood him, and whose ideas seemed so foreign to Jung's natural inclinations. Atwood and Stolorow (1993), among others, have attempted that level of psychobiography in case studies of both men. Regarding Freud, they adduced biographical material to demonstrate that Freud's need to preserve an idealized view of his mother against a deep, unconscious ambivalence towards her led him to develop a theory in which a child's instinctual impulses, not his mother's style of child rearing, were the source of evil, and in which any hostility the child might feel could be displaced onto the father. Regarding Jung, they opined that his relationship with his mother was disturbed by her intermittent depressions, so that Jung was forced to try to satisfy his needs for an idealized loving relationship by connecting with his father instead. When that failed, Jung was left feeling isolated and alone. As Jung himself put this,
More than ever I wanted someone to talk with, but nowhere did I find a point of contact, on the contrary, I sensed in others an estrangement, a distrust, an apprehension which robbed me of speech. (1965, p. 63)
Seen in this light, it may be that Jung's attempt to attach himself to Freud was the last attempt to fulfill his deepest selfobject needs (see Chapter 2, infra) through relations with another human being before turning to what he called "the Self" as his true companion.
In any case, such conjectures about the psychodynamic processes that underlie words and actions should be seen, as Hillman (1983) suggests, not as "facts," but as a form of literature, which one evaluates not by its verifiability, but by its power to satisfy. Accordingly, the account I have offered, featuring Freud as authoritarian father, fearing the apostasy of his son, and Jung as the child, at first worshipful, but later disillusioned, should be regarded not as verity, but only as one recounting of a complex story. It is, however, in my view, a far more satisfactory recounting than the oft-repeated version of two men estranged by theoretical differences. That story certainly fails to satisfy. Worse, it obfuscates the understanding that, first and foremost, a metapsychology is the personal confession of its author, a metaphysics, not a scientifically verifiable theory. That recognition, I will argue later, is an important precondition for establishing an effective healing climate in the clinical practice of psychotherapy.
The Metapsychologies of Freud, and Jung
Freud's early formulation (1900/1953b) theorized that within each person lay hidden all of the wishes, fantasies, urges, and desires that are part of the instinctual nature of human beings, but which are not acceptable in a civilized society. In order to live a civilized life, one had to repress knowledge of these unacceptable passions, partly because, should they be known, controlling them would be impossible, but also because knowing them would be incompatible with the view of "oneself" that civilized people needed to have. But such repression could go too far, Freud hypothesized, and if it did, various psychological problems, manifesting as symptoms, could result. Freud's treatment was gradually to make the patient conscious--through analysis of the communications between patient and therapist--of certain parts of the repressed material, so that some of the repression could be lifted, and a portion of the newly revealed psychic contents be accepted by the patient.
By 1923, Freud had developed his metapsychology into a tripartite view of the structure of the mind. Ego was the rational, conscious side of the mind that most people thought of as "myself." Id was the instincts, particularly aggressive and sexual drives. Superego was the shared values of the cultural surround, often unexamined, and at best only partially examined, transmitted primarily through the medium of interactions with parents. Since these three constituents were constantly in conflict with one another, the personality was a house divided, pulled asunder by strife outside the ken of ordinary consciousness. In this conception, analytical treatment aimed at helping the patient to understand something of the struggle among the three parts of the self, and to intervene consciously to balance them to his or her own betterment.
From our present vantage, it is easy to criticize Freud's idea that the mind had a structure, a kind of subtle machinery that he called the "mental apparatus." After all, from the poststructural perspective, states of consciousness can be described phenomenologically without attributing them to a fictitious entity called "mind." But that retrospective quibble appraises Freud too harshly. Because language subtly implies that things named exist, naming psychological states (ego, unconscious, etc.) without somehow hypostatizing them is not so easily accomplished. Freud may have used the ordinary hydraulics jargon of his era, which sounds dated, but the larger ramifications of his metapsychology were distinctly, and radically, postmodern: we are strangers to ourselves. Our individual personalities, and their collective expression as culture, spring from mysterious, hidden, irrational sources. We know not, and ultimately cannot know, who we are or why we do what we do. As Barratt felicitously put this:
Psychoanalytic process indicates the falsity of any belief in a mastery of consciousness and communication, for the process divulges the unsurpassable eccentricity of the subject of consciousness, for example, the extent to which the "I" of enunciation never thinks just what it thinks it thinks, and never simply is what it thinks it is. (1993, p. 5)
Moreover, even today, the same researchers who reject the word "mind" as a category mistake, or who call it a "ghost in the machine," an entification not very different from the seventeenth century materialization of the homunculus within the man, still search for the areas of the brain that they presume responsible for various thoughts, as if consciousness of ideas were a purely physical processes. To me, this seems no less a reification--perhaps much more of one--than Freud's positing a tri-partite mental apparatus.
Hillman (1983), who suggested that case histories be understood as a variety of fiction, criticized Freud not so much for his materialism, but because his theory universalized the source of pathology, imputing it to only one complex--the oedipal--leaving only small scope for plot variations, so that Freud's theory may sound scientific, but makes for bad literature. Freud's master plot, a causal sequence in which repression leads to formation of symptoms which then are treated by analysis of the repression, is much the same for everyone, but this seems to be more than just oversimplification. His exigent desire for unquestioning acceptance of his theory suggests also a personal urgency to preclude consideration of more than only one particular plot. If other plots were allowed to emerge, then Freud's own story would have to come to light. His idealized mother would turn out, as the narrative unfolded, to be unworthy of idealization, and Freud could not brook that. It was far better to believe that one was neurotic because civilization itself, not one's particular ambivalent relations to one's particular mother demanded repression of instincts. For example, In Civilization and Its Discontents, Freud averred that "aggression . . . forms the basis of every relation of affection and love among people (with the single exception, perhaps, of the mother's relation to her male child)" (1930, cited by Atwood and Stolorow, 1993, p. 58). In making that parenthetical exception, which he then softened by saying "perhaps," it seems likely that Freud needed to fashion his metapsychology into a shield against any real analysis of the mother-son dyad. Further, even when Freud was able to step far enough outside of his theoretical blind spot so that he could begin to notice the complexity and ambivalence in a son's relationship to his mother, he expurgated those threatening observations from later published accounts. Zetzel (1966, cited by Atwood and Stolorow, 1993, p. 58) observed that Freud's own clinical notes of his work with the famous "Rat Man" contained more than forty references to a highly contradictory emotional relationship between mother and son, whereas his published account in 1909 focused only on the Rat Man's father as an important real object, and included only a few unrevealing references to the patient's mother. Clearly the need for theory to be based on actual observations, and for a "scientist" to report everything, whether or not it supports his hypothesis, took second place to the exigencies of Freud's personal ego defenses.
But it is not just that Freud needed a theory that could help him to defend against knowing his ambivalence towards his own mother. Freud's entire theory of the oedipus complex, it is widely acknowledged, was based not so much upon experience with his patients' material as he pretended, but much more upon his personal self-analysis, upon analysis, for example, of his recurrent dreams in which the real-life event of urinating in his parent's bedroom to the scorn of his father was juxtaposed with scenes of great personal achievements. From that perspective, Freud's oedipus complex theory is really a kind of autobiography, and his metapsychology, which
present-day Jungians deride as based on little more than one complex and two drives, is the story of his efforts to make sense of his own pain.
It could be argued that if Freud had not been so insecure about his qualifications for medical practice, and thus so eager to legitimize his new methods of psychoanalysis as "scientific," he might have revealed that The Interpretation of Dreams really was more autobiography than scientific inquiry, but I am not so sure. In psychology the observer is the observed; everything is grist for the mill. Once one begins to speak or write, personal privacy is hard to maintain, so that Freud's mode of dissimulation--inventing stalking horses for his own self-analysis--is widely practiced by psychologists. Later we will see that Heinz Kohut, the post-Freudian theorist who created what is now called self psychology, also took pains to hide the original sources of his metapsychology. I know personally of an important, recently published book whose author attributes to "a patient" dreams which really were his own, and I must admit to having done something similar myself in clinical situations when I have spoken of events in my own life as if they had happened to someone else.
Jung never really bought Freud's one-plot scenario, but, according to Noll (1997), he was intrigued by the pragmatic, solution-oriented implications of psychoanalysis. Jung worked in the Burgh¬ölzli mental hospital where cures were rare, and effective treatments lacking. In those discouraging surroundings, any method that promised an amelioration of the bizarre and tragic symptoms he encountered daily would have been attractive. Besides, Jung feared that he himself might be subject to psychiatric problems transmitted by heredity from his forebears who had suffered from hysterical symptoms. Freud's theories discounted the biological explanations for symptomatology that were then, as now, so prevalent, replacing them with psychodynamic ones. That shift was important to Freud, since his own heredity as a Jew was often said to contain weaknesses that predisposed to feeblemindedness, and insanity, but such a shift may have felt seductively comforting to Jung too. Those factors, combined with Jung's awestruck idealization of Freud's genuine genius, for a time made Freud seem almost god-like, and imbued his theories with a seeming irreproachability. But Jung's doubts were destined to emerge. His background, so very different from Freud's, and particularly certain early experiences, demanded that he construe the formation of personality as more than a simple matter of the vicissitudes of repressed libidinal drives.
When Jung was still a young student, he joined in a game of "table turning" with a group of children. His cousin Helly, a girl of fifteen, went into a trance, and began speaking high German instead of her usual colloquial Swiss German. Along with the change in language, her usually shy demeanor became dignified and confident. Jung was fascinated, but his companions in the game were not even curious about the change, and his parents explained it away, saying that the girl was "high strung" (Bennet, 1966). Jung began to keep detailed records of the seances, and searched the literature on spiritualism, but he could not explain how this one girl could exhibit two such different selves. Although his teachers at the university told him that he was wasting his time by studying such nonsense, Jung was not deterred . He broadened his studies to include "that wide domain of psychopathic inferiority from which science has marked off the clinical pictures of epilepsy, hysteria, and neurasthenia" (Jung, 1902/1970, p. 3). Those studies, along with his notes on the seances became the dissertation for his medical degree.
It may be that Jung was so deeply intrigued by the emergence of the girl's second personality because he perceived within himself two personalities of his own. "No. 1," as Jung called him, was "a rather disagreeable and moderately gifted young man with vaulting ambitions" (1965, p. 86). "No. 2," according to Jung,
had no definable character at all; he was a vita peracta, born, living, dead, everything in one; a total vision of life. Though pitilessly clear about himself, he was unable to express himself through the dense, dark medium of No. 1, though he longed to do so. (p. 87).
This feeling of "twoness" from Jung's teenage years prefigured the idea that later would become the center of Jung's metapsychology:
the self is a quantity that is supraordinate to the conscious ego. It embraces not only the conscious but also the unconscious psyche, and is therefore, so to speak, a personality which we also are. (1965, p. 398)
That metapsychological notion implied a model of psychotherapy that required not so much the bringing into conscious awareness previously repressed material, as in Freud' psychoanalysis, but imaginal work aimed towards informing the ego of its complicated, previously unconscious relationship to the larger, transcendent reality that Jung called the "Self." That more conscious relation to the Self could be accomplished, as Jung saw it, by means of intentional realization of the images which arose, continually, and spontaneously, within the soul. According to Jung, there were two possible modes of dealing with such soul imagery. In the first, which he called the reductive mode, the images were traced back to primitive instincts as in Freudian psychoanalysis. In the second, the synthetic mode, the images were developed into a procedure for "differentiating the personality." According to Jung,
The synthetic method elaborates the symbolic fantasies resulting from the introversion of libido . . . . This produces a new attitude to the world . . . . I have termed this transition to a new attitude the transcendent function. (Jung, 1921/1971, p. 252).
This differentiation of the personality by means of the transcendent function, Jung called "individuation." Individuation aimed at transformation of human identity from that of a personality bound by conformity with convention to that of a true individual, unconstrained by customary attitudes towards thought and behavior. In Jung's approach to psychotherapy, individuation was facilitated by attention not to the symbolic meaning of images, as in Freudian practice which reduced dreams and fantasies to expressions of instinctual drives, but through intentional immersion into the images as forms of the gods within. As in Jung's personal experience, any such immersion might involve psychologically dangerous confrontations with the gods, but those who survived would attain, as Jung claimed for himself, a superior state of being. At the conjectural endpoint of this work, expressed most vividly in Answer To Job (Jung, 1952/1969), the entire drama of the relations between Self and ego might eventually fade out and disappear, not through resolution of the conflicts seemingly inherent in the drama, but because the drama was seen through, and so, transcended. Thus, the term "transcendent function."
Jung's metapsychology, couched in terms such as "transcendent," and positing a telos of union between the individual self and the larger "Self," clearly suggested possibilities of a radical transformation of personality. Jung (1921/1971, 1952/1969) even implied that individuation is the story of God's own libidinal drive toward becoming conscious of himself. How different this is from Freud's psychotherapy, which, taking place purely on the human level, conceived the aim of analytic work as changing neurotic unhappiness into ordinary unhappiness. Freud, although he could be empathic, was seen by many of his early followers as "a rigid, authoritarian, father figure who disliked rebellion" (Corbett and Cohen, in press). And Corbett and Cohen opined that Freud's "dogmatism and his one-side approach to sexuality are actually markers of rigid, monomodal thinking." Perhaps that rigid persona was an inevitable concomitant of Freud's constant struggle--suggested by his episodes of fainting, or dizziness when confronted by manifestations he could not explain--to suppress his shadow side, which seems to have been fascinated with the irrational, the supernatural, and intimations of the godhead. Accordingly, just as Jung's transcendental metapsychology reflected his lifelong inclination towards the mystic, Freud's metapsychology, with its limited aims for analysis, its rigorous denial of any transcendental import in the images of dreams and fantasies, and its focus on psychology as "science," seems to have reflected Freud's inner drama of keeping the mystic at bay.
Jung's theory of psychological types, published originally in 1921, is said to derive from his wanting to "understand his own and Adler's break with Freud" (Corbett and Cohen, in press), or from his observations of the "conflict between Freud and Adler [and] the apparent capacity of both theorists to account equally well for the phenomenon of human neurosis" (Atwood and Stolorow, 1993, p. 63). Jung stated that the Freud-Adler conflict
must come from the fact that, owing to his psychological peculiarity, each investigator most readily sees that factor in the neurosis which corresponds to his peculiarity. . . . Adler sees how a subject who feels suppressed and inferior tries to secure an illusory superiority. . . . This view lays undue emphasis upon the subject before which the idiosyncrasy and significance of objects entirely vanishes. . . . Freud sees his patient in perpetual dependence on, and in relation to, significant objects . . . . The piece de resistance of his theory is the concept of the transference, i.e., the patient's relation to the doctor. . . . With Freud objects are of the greatest significance and possess almost exclusively the determining power. With Adler, the emphasis is placed on a subject who, no matter what the object, seeks his own security and supremacy. . . . This difference can hardly be anything else but a difference of temperament, a contrast between two types of human mentality, one of which finds the determining agency preeminently in the subject, the other in the object. (Jung 1943, cited by Atwood and Stolorow, 1993, p. 64, emphasis mine).
To clarify this statement for the general reader, in an infelicitous coinage, "object" in psychological jagon means "person." Thus, the different interpretations of the etiology of neurosis are seen as manifestations of each man's own tendencies towards extraversion or introversion. That is, theory is seen as an expression of psychological type. Even more interesting, however, for the present purposes, is Jung's largely neglected idea from his 1921 book, Psychological Types, that "if psychology remains for us only a science, we do not penetrate into life. . . . since from the standpoint of the intellect everything else is nothing but fantasy" (1921/1971, p. 59). In that view, because from the scientific perspective, only two categories exist, science and fantasy--fantasy comprising everything that is not scientifically valid--science can be dedicated only to its own further development, and that tendency of the scientific intellect towards immersion in its own premises creates a mental reductionism which, according to Jung, "becomes an evil when it is a question of life itself demanding development" (p. 59).
Seen from that point of view, both Freud and Adler were on the same side of the metapsychological divide--the science side--and their respective differences in attitude towards the etiology of neurosis were more apparent than real. In other words, from Jung's perspective, Freud and Adler shared an attitude: a reductionistic depreciation of fantasy images as the stuff of psychological experience. Their typological differences simply influenced the way each man enunciated that depreciation. Freud's psychotherapy was based upon a psychology of instinct, and so was directed towards removing barriers of repression that made the object inaccessible. Adler's was a psychology of the ego, and so therapy was directed towards seeing through habitual ego defenses that seemed to promote the security of the ego, but at the cost of personal isolation. However, both modes of psychotherapy must ultimately fail because the inherent healing power of fantasy images would be diminished by reduction of the images to material accessible to logical interpretation. In Jung's view, since fantasy images had the power to compensate for conscious attitudes, with proper appreciation and elaboration of fantasy, the natural skewing of attitude due to temperamental type would tend toward better balance. But the scientific reductionism of both Freud and Adler would interfere with that spontaneous tendency towards wholeness. As Jung articulated this,
Psychoanalysis fails . . . just in so far as the method it employs is oriented according to the theory of the patient's own type. Thus the extravert, in accordance with his theory, will reduce the fantasies rising out of his unconscious to their instinctual content, while the introvert will reduce them to his power aims. The gains resulting from such an analysis merely increase the already existing imbalance. . . . An inner dissociation arises, because portions of other functions coming to the surface in unconscious fantasies, dreams, etc., are each time devalued and again repressed. . . . Both theories reject the principle of imagination since they reduce fantasies to something else and treat them merely as a semiotic [as opposed to symbolic] expression. (Jung 1921/1971, pp. 62-63)
Jung's personal experience that the images of fantasy were as psychologically real as the observations of science, and perhaps even more psychically influential, led him to the view that "every psychology . . . has the character of a subjective confession" (1929/1979, p. 336). Further, since psychology is not scientific, but confessional,
nobody is absolutely right in psychological matters. Never forget that in psychology the means by which you judge and observe the psyche is the psyche itself. . . . The psyche is not only the object but also the subject of our science. So you see, it is a vicious circle and we have to be very modest. (1935/1980. pp. 125-126)
The necessary modesty, Jung claimed, could be maintained by application of philosophical criticism to metapsychological conjecture. Such self-scrutiny would reveal that,
man does not make his ideas . . . man's ideas make him. Ideas are, inevitably, a fatal confession, for they bring to light not only the best in us, but our worst insufficiencies and personal shortcomings as well. This is especially the case with ideas about psychology. . . . Our way of looking at things is conditioned by what we are. (1929/1979, p. 333)
According to Jung, Freud possessed neither the requisite modesty, nor the inclination towards philosophically informed, critical examination of his own metapsychology. From that standpoint, Freudian metapsychology, which Freud deemed an accurate and universal view of the bedrock of human personality, really amounted to an unwarranted extrapolation towards an all-embracing, global hypothesis based on Freud's subjective, limited observations of his own inner drama. However, Jung could not quite argue that Freudian theory should be held to apply only to its creator, because Jung had observed that it seemed to bear upon some of Jung's own patients too. He explained those observations thusly: since Freud's subjective confession was an honest one, it had some intrinsic merit, albeit it was not universally applicable. The patients to whom, in some measure, it did apply were those who were similar to Freud in psychological "type."
These days, Jung's line of reasoning regarding typology would be broadened by the social constructionists (see, for example, Cushman, 1995, or Gergen, 1985) to say that a metapsychology might apply to some others of the same psychological type--that is, feeling, thinking, intuitive, sensate, introverted, extraverted--as its creator, but only if they also shared a historico-cultural background with the author of the metapsychology. In that view, selfhood is not some ubiquitous human experience of being in the world, but rather the much more specific experience of living within a particular historico-cultural environment. In other words, one's experience of selfhood is delineated in large part by the economic arrangements, language, customs, and expectations of one's specific milieu. In that conception, a metapsychology is a cultural artifact, and so is limited in application only to members of the specific culture from which it sprung. So, for example, Freud's theory of repressed drives coming into conflict with the "reality principle" was not foremost a comprehensive metapsychology, but more an approach to a therapy for the social ills--introjected as personal pathology--of one very specific culture. Having observed that many human urges and desires were stifled by Victorian cultural arrangements, Freud put forth a treatment modality that addressed the personal consequences of that repression without greatly disturbing, nor even questioning, the generalized economic status quo. Thus, from the social constructionist perspective, Freudian metapsychology would be seen as applying to the "types" found in fin de si¬ècle European cities.
For Jung, a metapsychology also was limited in value to a specific group, but not so much as a matter of culture. For Jung, psychology was as a matter of blood. Simply put, Jung believed that human beings drew their psychological attributes from the soil upon which they were born and from the racial characteristics of their ancestors. Further, Jung believed that leaving one's homeland would begin to change that blood, and, subsequently, the blood of one's descendants:
The mystery of earth is no joke and no paradox. One only needs to see how, in America, the skull and pelvis measurements of all the European races begin to indianize themselves in the second generation of immigrants. (Jung, 1918/1970, p. 13)
Because the Jews had no homeland of their own, Jung said, their connection to the earth--thus to the primitive, and to the chthonic--was weak. Consequently, Jewish culture and psychology was overly complex. According to Jung,
this may explain the specific need of the Jew to reduce everything to its material beginnings . . . . A little bit of primitivity does not hurt him; on the contrary, I can understand very well that Freud's and Adler's reduction of everything psychic to primitive sexual wishes and power-drives has something about it that is beneficial and satisfying to the Jew, because it is a form of simplification. For this reason, Freud is perhaps right to close his eyes to my objections. But these specifically Jewish doctrines are thoroughly unsatisfying to the Germanic mentality. (p. 14)
Thus, Jung's most basic objection to Freudian metapsychology was not at all theoretical, but racial, in fact, a reflection of Jung's own racism. Contemporary Jungians try to whitewash Jung's arrant racism either by flatly--and wrongly--denying it, or by explaining that his attitudes, widely shared in his day, cannot fairly be judged retrospectively. Indeed, since the 1930s, when Jung's anti-Semitic, and even pro-Nazi sentiments became especially evident, his followers have worked overtime to clean up his image. His family has kept hidden all of his private diaries, most of his correspondence, and the famous "Red Book" of his of his "discussions" with the dead. Aniela Jaff¬é, the editor of Jung's so-called "autobiography," Memories, Dreams, Reflections (1965), camouflaged the fact that Jung had written only a small part of that volume. Most of it consists of adaptations of Jung's lectures, or notes of Jaff¬é's discussions with him, which she--a fervent Jung apologist--rewrote to appear to be his first-person chronicles. According to Noll (1997),
Unflattering material was, of course, left out, and even the usual sort of factual material that one expects in a biography or an autobiography is missing, leaving the strange story of an extraordinary individual who somehow lived outside of time and escaped history. (p. xiii)
Even earlier, Jung himself labored to clean up his public image, purging it of its anti-Semitic odor, by wangling an invitation to deliver the Terry Lectures at Harvard in 1936, and by learning that it was important always to call himself a Swiss.
This is undisputable, but it is only the beginning. I am in no position to ratify the accuracy of Richard Noll's (1997) recent examination of Jung's "secret life," but his sources are many and varied, and his argument seems at least well-reasoned. If even a fraction of Noll's conclusions are valid, then the Jung of the 1920s and 1930s was less a psychologist than a neopagan zealot who intentionally maintained and wielded the identity "psychologist" as a beard for his radical political and religious agenda. Jung claimed that Freud's metapsychology, and hence the treatment it implied--psychoanalysis--was limited by Freud's own psychological unfitness:
I cannot see how Freud can ever get beyond his own psychology and relieve the patient of a suffering from which the doctor himself still suffers. It is the psychology of neurotic states of mind, definitely one-sided, and its validity is really confined to those states. Within these limits it is true and valid even when it is in error. For error also belongs to the picture and carries the truth of a confession. But it is not a psychology of the healthy mind, and--this is a symptom of its morbidity--it is based on an uncriticized, even an unconscious, view of the world which is apt to narrow the horizon of experience and limit one's vision. (1929/1979, p. 333)
Jung's polemic might be taken as a reasonable, if somewhat harsh, appraisal until one understands that in making it Jung was arrogating the high ground of mental health for himself, a territory to which he might have had no credible claim. According to Noll's (1997) account, Jung's own view of the world was also uncriticized and unconscious, to say the least, and Jung's metapsychology was not so
much a psychology as an apologia and rationale, written in a secret code accessible only to the cognoscenti, for a revivification of Aryan paganism and German Volkish nationalism. According to Noll, Jung aimed at the replacement of Christianity by a new religion, with Wotan as its chief deity, and Jung as its new savior, the "Aryan Christ." If true, this is more than just inflation. It is florid megalomania, and Jung's attacks on Freud for his "morbidity" may be understood not as the outcome of theoretical disagreements, but as Jung's projection of his own "neurotic state of mind."
Clearly, this is a picture of Jung very different from that of most Jungians who see him as a old wise man dedicated to helping others to "individuate," and thus to find salvation. But my purpose here is not to pillory Jung. Or Freud. Simply, if one wants to arrive at seeing depth psychology as personal confession, then the excursion must begin with Freud and with Jung. They were the originators. Now, nearly one hundred years after their interpersonal drama began and quickly ended, the Freud-Jung break still perdures; a depth psychologist is apt to feel more at home on one side of the fence than the other. After all this time, one is likely either a classical Freudian or classical Jungian, a post-Freudian or post-Jungian, or perhaps a reformed Freudian or reformed Jungian. Freud and Jung, along with Adler, are the old-growth trees in the woods of depth psychology. So, for instance, the view that dreams, daydreams, and other fantasies are not merely release valves for the pressures of repressed ideation, but the fundamental material of the psyche puts archetypal psychologists in the Jung tree, whereas those who believe that innate aggression, along with the vicissitudes of an infant's struggle to come to terms with it, is the central factor in human emotional development--the Kleinians--are firmly in the Freud tree along with disciples of other, later object-relations theorists.
And what of Adler? Adler's ideas continue to be influential, but not primarily as metapsychology, for Adler, unlike Freud and Jung, did not offer any map of intrapsychic space that could serve as the basis for a comprehensive metapsychology. Adler's work did not focus on making the unconscious conscious in the sense of bringing to light repressed oedipal longings ¬à la Freud, or revealing the hidden faces of the anima, the shadow, and the other stock players in Jung's presumed internal drama. Adler's psychotherapy aimed at bringing to light unacknowledged, deeply held cognitive attitudes that interfered with living. In this, it anticipated the existential-humanist position which usually is not considered a branch of depth psychology. Adler conceived of psychological development not so much as a quest of the isolated individual to fulfill personal needs by means of exploration of unconscious material, but as the fulfillment of the inherent drive and obligation of all persons to find their proper place within society at large. Satisfying that drive, and meeting that obligation would require coming to awareness of one's feelings of inferiority, and compensatory strivings for superiority, which hindered seeking socially useful goals. (Adler, 1931/1958)
In Adler's conception, the most important human value was not, as for Freud, the ability to recognize and satisfy relatively mature individual desires nor, as for Jung, the realization of an inner telos already known to the greater self, but development of the ability to live in harmony with the principle of Gemeinschaftsgef¬ühl, or social interest. In that scenario, the need to be "socially embedded" is a primary, innate human characteristic, and the individual is always part of larger social systems, ranging from the family to all humanity, and particularly including the biological, male-female system. The various relations within those systems inevitably entail predicaments of friendship, work, and sexual love, but, for Adler, the solution to such problems involved not individual struggles, but the unfoldment of the human capacity for Gemeinschaftsgef¬ühl, which could coordinate one's striving with that of one's fellow humans. From that perspective,
All failures--neurotics, psychotics, criminals, drunkards, problem children, suicides, perverts and prostitutes--are failures because they are lacking in fellow-feeling and social interest. They approach the problems of occupation, friendship and sex without the confidence that they can be solved by cooperation. The meaning they give to life is a private meaning: no one else is benefitted by the achievement of their aims and their interest stops short at their own persons. Their goal of success is a goal of mere fictitious personal superiority and their triumphs have meaning only to themselves. (Adler, 1931/1958, p. 8)
Therapeutically, Adler sought to show his patients where their life-styles had been selected, as in a kind of auto-hypnosis, to provide imaginary feelings of superiority instead of leading to actions that really would generate feelings of self-worth. Thus, successful psychotherapy was not a question of revealing the unconscious, but of coming to understand the
goal of superiority [that] with each individual, is personal and unique. It depends upon the meaning he gives to life; and this meaning is not a matter of words. It is built up in his style of life and runs through it like a strange melody of his own creation. In his style of life he does not express his goal so that we can formulate it once for all. He expresses it vaguely, so that we must guess at it from the indications he gives. Understanding a style of life is similar to understanding the work of a poet. A poet must use words, but his meaning is more than the mere words he uses. The greatest part of his meaning must be guessed at; we must read between the lines. So, too, with that profoundest and most intricate creation, an individual style of life. The psychologist must learn to read between the lines; he must learn the art of appreciating life-meanings. (1931/1958, pp. 57-58).
Hillman (1983), who also envisioned effective therapy as a form of poesis, explained that Adler's work serves well as the basis for a postmodernist critique of Jungian metapsychology--and, by extension, of psychotherapeutic practice in general--just because, unlike Freud and Jung, Adler refused to conceive of intrapsychic models. In that view, "Adler was a phenomenologist who wanted to understand consciousness from within itself and without appeal to structures external to it which are always fictions of it anyway" (p. 110). Hillman cited Adler's view that humans "live in the realm of meanings," and that,
historically ideas tend to grow from fictions (unreal but practically useful constructs) to hypotheses and later to dogmas. This change of intensity differentiates in a general way the thinking of the normal individual (fiction as expedient), of the neurotic (attempt to realize the fiction), and of the psychotic (. . . reification of the fiction: dogmatization). (Adler, 1917, cited by Hillman (1983) p. 111)
From that perspective, as long as psychological suppositions about human conduct or emotions are still seen as fictions, that is, seen in the poetic-metaphoric form "as if," they may serve as a useful tools. Once the fictions begin to harden into generalized hypotheses, one already has entered the neurotic realm of Freud's fainting spells--so eerily evocative of the throes of his own "hysterical" patients--when his world view seemingly came under attack, or the neurotic realm of Jung's "religious crush" on Freud the theoretician. The psychotic level of hardening unfortunately takes place often in psychotherapeutic practice when images or interpretations, not even original to the therapist, but learned by rote, are imposed upon a patient as if they were objective "facts" which the therapist being "fully analyzed" can see, but the patient, being ill, cannot. At that level of misunderstanding, the therapist, having reified metaphor into certainty, is acting "psychotic," in Adler's use of that term, but the patient who disagrees with the therapist's dogmatic interpretations is made to feel "psychotic," that is. the patient is made to carry the projections of the therapist's psychosis. In my own practice, a number of patients have come to me already deeply injured by Jungians and Freudians in that very way, so that the therapy had to begin with trying to undo some of that damage.
Nevertheless, Freud and Jung are the old-growth trees, and I have sought to poke around among their roots--the deepest roots of depth psychology-- because seeing that work as personal confession is the embarkation point for seeing one's own work in psychotherapy as personal confession. But understanding Freud and Jung is not easy. The connections between personal history and later affect and action, which in the consulting room are the business of psychoanalysis, become, in an essay like this one, the work of psychobiography, a form with many inherent problems. Among the thorniest of these is the real difficulty of understanding the Victorian culture in which Freud and Jung lived, for to the difficulty of understanding the personal confession of any individual, must be added the difficulty of situating that confession in the wider ambience of its time and place.
At first blush, the world of Freud and Jung seems not very unlike our own, but for a psychologist that attitude would be fatal error, for the very subject of psychological inquiry--the human "mind"--was regarded very differently one hundred years ago, and that difference is hard to reckon. As one says to a friend when an attempt to share the humor of an earlier situation falls flat, "You had to be there." Well, we weren't there, but we do somehow glean that the primacy of conscious thought in that time so much closer to Descartes was considerably less disputed then than now. For example, on April 14, 1912 when the Titanic hit an iceberg, confusing wireless messages led some to believe that she was safe. The New York Times was the lone voice predicting her troubles. All the other papers had headlines such as: TITANIC RAMS ICEBERG. ALL PASSENGERS SAFE. Even two days later, the Wall Street Journal ran an opinion piece that said:
The gravity of the damage to the Titanic is apparent, but the important point is that she did not sink. Man is the weakest and most formidable creature on Earth. His brain has within it the spirit of the Divine. He overcomes natural obstacles by thought which is incomparably the greatest force in the universe. (April 16, 1912, emphasis mine.)
Today, few would believe such thing. But in 1912, about a year before the cessation of relations between Freud and Jung, thought was the greatest force in the universe. Neurasthenia, the most prevalent psychological symptom of the day--it was the ailment for which Coca-Cola was the medicine--was defined as a paralysis of the will marked by indecision and doubt. A "healthy" person was masterful and self-assured, not tentative or doubtful. Physicists were declaring that a comprehensive understanding of the universe required only the solution of a few more small puzzles which soon would give way to the power of thought. No wonder Freud wanted to be "scientific," and to fashion a metapsychology that could explain everything psychological. To do less would feel like failure. Writing about what he called "the problem of taboo," in the introduction to Totem and Taboo, Freud avowed that "the effort to solve it is approached with perfect confidence" (1913/1946, p. x, emphasis mine.)
Sixty years later things had changed considerably. Neurasthenia had become "anxiety," an almost ubiquitous state of mind. Few believed that the universe would soon--or ever--be understood. Standards of morality, which had seemed so self-evident in Freud's time, lay in tatters after the "situational ethics" of the 1950s, and the sexual revolution of the 1960s. Disaffected minorities were voicing concerns that might have interested Adler, but certainly not Freud or Jung. It was a time that many of us living today remember well, and our present day world is not so far from it. It was in that milieu that Heinz Kohut, a noted Freudian, abandoned his pampered position in the bosom of psychoanalytic orthodoxy to bring forth a theory of intrapsychic dynamics that called into question many of the most important "truths" in the Freudian canon. Because we know his world so well, it will be easier than with Freud and Jung to separate out what was personal to Kohut from the generalized presumptions of his cultural surround. Thus, the case of Kohut and his self psychology, detailed in the following chapter, will offer a good study in metapsychology as personal confession.
HEINZ KOHUT, AND THE INVENTION OF
PSYCHOANALYTIC SELF PSYCHOLOGY
About twenty-five years ago, the self psychology of Heinz Kohut emerged as a modification of the Freudian paradigm. Since then, Kohut's metapsychology has become widely popular, not only among Freudians, but among depth psychologists of all stripes. For instance, according to Jungian analyst Lionel Corbett, "the Jungian analytic community has been profoundly influenced by theorists of other schools, of whom Heinz Kohut is currently of particular importance because of various intriguing points of contact between his writing and that of Jung" (1989, p. 23). Further, according to Corbett, Kohutian theory is of great practical use to a Jungian analyst because it provides methods of working even with patients who do not produce the kind of material that is amenable to Jungian interpretation, or who are not prepared to hear such interpretations (personal communication, December, 1995). Object relations theorists also have been influenced by Kohut's work, and Kohut's locution "selfobject" is now a term of art even for those who do not necessarily practice in the Kohutian manner.
As I will seek to demonstrate in what
follows, notwithstanding the wide acceptance of Kohut's ideas and the obvious
popularity of his therapeutic procedures as a clinical modality, his
metapsychology was not deduced from a global panorama of human psychology, but
clearly was Kohut's confession of his own pathology, his own personal
organizing principles, and his own endeavors to heal himself. In order that this
be properly understood, it will first be necessary to look at the Freudian
background from which Kohut's theories arose, and especially to review in some
detail the central
ideas of Kohut's metapsychology, particularly with reference to Kohut's most famous case study, the case of Mr. Z.
Kohut The Freudian
In 1938, Freud, a Jew, was forced to flee Vienna for London. As Freud's train left the station, a young medical student standing on the platform waved, and was favored by a tip of the hat from the great man whom he idolized but never had met. That was the first and last time that Heinz Kohut ever saw Freud, but later, as the president of the American Psychoanalytic Association, he delighted in recounting the story, which, according to Kohut's colleague, Ernest Wolf (1996), Kohut interpreted as a symbolic passing of the torch. Like Freud, Kohut was also Jewish, although he concealed that identity as best he could all his life. Two years after Freud's forced departure, when even for a completely assimilated Jew like Kohut, staying in Vienna had become impossibly dangerous, Kohut fled too. At the age of twenty-five, after a sojourn in London, he emigrated to the United States, where he began a residency in clinical neurology at the University of Chicago. He was praised by his teachers as "a brilliant clinician, destined to become a star" (Siegel, 1996, p. 2), but Kohut, like Freud before him, turned his attention away from neurology in order to study the workings of the psyche. Leaving the University of Chicago, he entered the Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis, where he trained in classical Freudian theory, the predominant psychoanalytic theory in the United States, and began a practice based upon the Freudian principles of transference: a displacement upon the analyst by the analysand of unconscious incestuous longings that play out the unresolved oedipal drama of childhood, and resistance: the unconscious process impeding the recognition of those desires. As a classical Freudian, Kohut subscribed to the theory that emotional difficulties stemmed from the two drives--the sexual drive that served to preserve the species, and the aggressive drive that served to preserve the individual--coming into conflict with the prohibitions of the cultural surround, which prohibited free expression of the drives. Thus, the paradigm that Kohut was using in his clinical work was called the "drive-conflict" model, or simply "drive theory."
In Freudian theory, the primary object for the expression of the sexual instinct is the parent of the opposite sex with whom the child desires an incestuous relationship, and the primary object for the expression of the aggressive instinct is the parent of the same sex, who is seen as a rival to be murdered. Awareness of those oedipal desires creates profound anxiety due to concomitant fantasies of reprisals by the rivaled parent. In the male child, his own incestuous and murderous wishes produce a fantasy of castration by the father; the girl (already believing herself to be castrated, according to Freud) fears reprisal through abandonment by her mother. But since the same instincts that can produce such terrifying anxieties also are the wellsprings of action in the real world--the aggressive drive leading to action through assertiveness, and the reproductive drive leading to action through sexual striving--having to defend against expression of the drives produces inhibitions that interfere with living. As Kohut conducted his practice in the 1950s, his task, seen broadly, was to analyze the sources of his patient's anxieties so that those analysands could be liberated in some measure from their neurotic inhibitions.
Further, psychoanalytic work aimed at helping the patient to discriminate between oedipal wishes, impossible to fulfill, and more mature desires that carried with them the prospect of genuine satisfaction through effort in the real world. Freud had called such discernment "the reality principle," and had asserted that
experiences of "optimal frustration" are responsible for the differentiation between a wish and reality. An optimal frustration is the period of delay a child experiences before a particular wish can be satisfied. Through the delay the child comes to realize that active steps must be taken in order to satisfy the wish. According to Kohut [who taught Freudian theory from 1958 until the late 1960s at the Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis], Freud suggested that it is only through an optimal frustration, a frustration that is neither so intense as to be traumatic nor so minimal as to be insignificant, that wishes can be differentiated from reality. (Siegel, 1996, p. 27) This point will be important later in looking at Kohut's self psychology, because the idea that children (or analytic patients) learn through "optimal frustration" was central to his new conception.
The Move Away From Freudian Theory
Kohut was always sensitive to the psychoanalytic question of narcissism, probably because he struggled with his own pronounced narcissistic tendencies. Wolf (1996), writing very much in the mode of Kohutian self psychology, interpreted Kohut's creativity and its final focus on narcissism as
a compensatory response to some early deprivations that had threatened the cohesiveness of his budding self. One major deprivation was the absence of his father during World War I. . . . The war had been a catastrophic interruption of his career as a concert pianist and he was unable to pursue his musical aims after he returned. One can easily imagine the father's depression and the son's disillusionment in the now returned father, who must have been a distantly admired hero during his military service.
Little Heinz was close to his mother and he remained so for many years. Yet certain remarks that he made at times left me with the impression that his mother was a somewhat distant woman who was overly involved with her social life, leaving Heinz in the care of servants and tutors. (p. 14)
In an early paper, written with the collaboration of a colleague, Kohut displayed his interest in the problem of narcissism, connecting its pathological manifestation to Freud's concept of optimal frustration:
If the child is over-spoiled (not optimally frustrated), it retains an unusual amount of narcissism or omnipotence; and at the same time, because it lacks actual skills, feels inferior. Similarly, overly frustrating experiences . . . lead to retention of narcissistic omnipotence fantasies. (Kohut & Seitz 1960, cited in Siegel, 1996, p. 28)
A few years later, Kohut would redefine narcissism, and that reformulation would become the central premise of self psychology, but the narcissism to which Kohut and Seitz referred was still, as in classical Freudian theory, a stage of human emotional development during which
libido is invested completely or mainly in the self, or the ego, or, more simply in the body. . . . [It] is considered normal in the very young; should it persist into adulthood it is usually classified as a neurosis and is generally characterized by a love of self that precedes, if not precludes, love of others. (Reber, 1985, p. 462)
For Freud, the normal developmental line--that which would not be neurotic--required that primary narcissism find later expression in "object libido," first directed toward a homosexual object, then towards a heterosexual object, and finally, in its best development, culminating in abandonment of narcissism in favor of real object love. That sequence of development implies that narcissism per se is pathological if it continues beyond infancy, that is, narcissism is something to be outgrown. Kohut had been teaching that point of view, and his 1960 paper on optimal frustration still presumed it, but in 1966 he abandoned the Freudian position, postulating that narcissism had a developmental line of its own--in fact two developmental lines--and that narcissistic development was normal, not pathological. Further, pointing to the contempt with which many psychoanalysts regarded "narcissists," Kohut asserted that positing object love as a higher development than self love was judgmental and demeaning, putting the needs of society at large above those of the individual patient.
Kohut (1966/1978a) hypothesized that the infant's world was naturally blissful until inevitable failures of maternal care began to threaten that bliss. To defend against the destruction of its peaceful world, the infant created two new systems of "narcissistic perfection." One, the "idealized parental imago," attempted to protect the infant's well-being by endowing an outside object with infinite power and goodness. The second, the "narcissistic self," fantasized that everything good was contained within the infant, and everything bad was outside. Later, Kohut (1968/1978b) modified his terminology so that the "narcissistic self" became "the grandiose self."
Each of the two forms of narcissism, grandiosity and idealization, followed its own course of development. Regarding idealization, the stability of the idealized parental imago--the image of a perfect other with whom one could totally merge, and who would be a source of endless strength, perfect kindness, and unlimited power--inevitably would be challenged by disappointing comparisons to the child's actual parent. If these disappointments were not too sudden or traumatic, the imago would be converted slowly into ideals. Regarding grandiosity, the child's grandiose self desired to receive from important caregivers witness to its perfection and admiration of its magnificent powers. According to Kohut (1966/1978a), without such appreciative witnessing, without "the gleam in the mother's eye," the child's narcissistic self could not properly mature, but with adequate admiration, archaic grandiosity matured into realistic ambitions.
By 1971, with the publication of Analysis of the Self, Kohut was prepared to discuss in detail what would happen if the idealized parental imagoes and the grandiose self did not properly mature. As we have seen, if the child's fantasy of an ideal parent were gradually controverted by a series of disappointing, but tolerable experiences with the real parent, the idealization would be internalized by the child in the form of ideals. For example, the idealized imago of "daddy" as a flawlessly noble, entirely moral, perfectly fair guardian of truth, could mature, as daddy proved to be not flawless, but human, into a love of justice in the abstract. However, if this line of development were disturbed, perhaps by a disappointment in the actual father that was too sudden and severe to be tolerated, the idealizing narcissism would not mature into ideals, but would remain compellingly active in the adult, who then might be forced to seek persons--rather than abstract ideals--to idealize for all of her or his life. One sees extreme examples of this pathology, for instance, in cult members. As for the grandiose self, it it were tolerably (optimally) disappointed--for example, mother sometimes praised the child, but sometimes was too busy to notice the child's "greatness"--then the child's needs for admiration could mature into the ambition to gain recognition for achievable accomplishments in the real world. However, if the disappointment were traumatic--perhaps, for instance, mother fell into a depression and never noticed the child--then, according to Kohut, there would be no line of development by which the child could imagine garnering sufficient appreciation through ordinary achievements, and he or she would retain an archaic grandiosity, going through life lacking self-esteem, perhaps feeling acutely sensitive to imagined slights, or perhaps demanding constantly to be a center of attention. In its extreme form, this is the so-called "borderline personality."
Kohut (1971) conceived the successful maturation of the idealized parental imago as a process of "transmuting internalization." This meant that the idealizations invested in the caregivers when gradually withdrawn would be absorbed into the psyche of the child where they would form new structures that could perform the psychological functions previously performed by the idealized parent. Observe that Kohut, like Freud, needed to express his psychological understanding in terms of reified structures. Later, sensitive to criticism of this apparent hypostatization, he took pains to distance himself from Freud's mental apparatus model, and to explain that he saw the structures only metaphorically:
When the self psychologist speaks of "psychic structure," he is referring neither to the structures of a mental apparatus nor to the structures of any of the constituents of a mental apparatus but to the structure of the self. The structure of the self, in other words, is the theoretical correlate of those attributes of the self which, in their sum total, define this central concept of self psychology. While the notion of psychic structure is, like all theoretical constructions, no more than a tautology, it is still an invaluable aid to our thought and an indispensable tool when we communicate with one another. (1984, p. 99)
Akin to his understanding of the successful maturation of the idealized parental imago as a process of "transmuting internalization," Kohut (1971) believed that the grandiose self also could be transmuted--recast from an expression of absurdly exaggerated demands for attention, and unobtainable fantasies of power, domination, and admiration, into a "self" capable of authentic enjoyment of ordinary life and its possibilities. But there was a difference. Transmutation of parental idealizations required some parental support--for example, some willingness on the part of the parent to accept the idealizations--but, if there were no traumatic, sudden disappointments in the idealized figure, the unavoidable, day-by-day comparison of the idealized imagoes with the actual parents would cause a more or less automatic, step-by-step withdrawal of the idealizations by means of their gradual metamorphosis into abstract ideals. On the other hand, transformation of archaic grandiosity into realistic self-esteem required active participation of the parents in acknowledging and supporting the child's needs for admiration, and thus would demand parents who were relatively comfortable with their own grandiosity.
According to Kohut, a parent who easily performed the function of a mirror, or gracefully performed the other important function, that of being idealizable, would not be seen by the child as a person in his or her own right. Rather, that parent would be experienced as a part of the child's own self, as an extension of the self, and Kohut (1971) named this capacity of serving as a psychological extension the "self-object function." The person who fulfilled the function, he called a "self-object." Later, he removed the hyphen, and created the term "selfobject" to indicate that the function-providing object is not experienced as separate from the self. This view of early caregivers as selfobjects whose functions would be internalized, thereby creating structures within the self, could not be reconciled with the Freudian conception in which parents were seen mainly as the objects of the drives and the source of drive gratification, and in which narcissism was seen as normal only in the very early stages of life, and pathological later. Kohut had tried to remain true to his Freudian roots--after all, he was President of the American Psychoanalytic Association, and his colleagues thought of him as "Mr. Psychoanalysis" (Wolf, 1996)--but his clinical experience, he claimed, particularly his growing understanding of narcissism, was leading him further and further away from the idea that the "self" was produced by the intersection of innate drives with the outside world embodied in the parents. By 1977, he wrote,
It is possible to discern a self which, while it includes drives (and/or defenses) in its organization, has become a superordinated configuration whose significance transcends that of the sum of its parts. (1977, p. 97)
This belief in a self "beyond knowing empirically, a supraordinate concept, transcending the sum of its parts, which has cohesiveness in space and continuity in time" (1977, p. 177) was a radical departure from psychoanalytic theories that saw the "self" as a content of the "mind," that is as a collection of self-representations, leading Kohut to declare that Freud's theory of the oedipus complex had only limited explanatory power:
The classical theory of drives and objects explains a good deal about the child's oedipal experiences; par excellence it explains the child's conflicts and in particular, the child's guilt. But it falls short in providing an adequate framework for some of the most important experiences of man, those that relate to the development and vicissitudes of his self. To be explicit . . . these theories fail to do justice to the experiences that relate to the crucially important task of building and maintaining a cohesive nuclear self. (1977, pp. 223-224)
For Kohut, aggression was not an innate drive, but a response to faulty parenting. Thus, Kohut's schema was a parent blaming theory, in contrast to the baby blaming theories of Freud and particularly of Melanie Klein, who saw the parent as the target of the child's frustration, envy, and hatred, and imputed later pathology to an excess of aggression in the newborn. This is the crux of Kohut's departure from his earlier work as a Freudian analyst: drives do not make the self, that is, "man is not born to conflict . . . he is not of necessity in an adversary relationship with his parents or with his culture, and . . . his development is not determined or predetermined by drives or instincts as psychoanalysis has understood them" (Basch, 1984 p. 29).
The Making of an Apostate
Today, thousands of psychoanalysts use the ideas of self psychology routinely in clinical practice, and the Jungian analytic community in particular has embraced Kohut's work. But in the 1960s, the move away from classical psychoanalysis was not easy. Kohut was among the aristocracy in orthodox Freudian society. He was President of the American Psychoanalytic Association. He was Vice-President of the International Psychoanalytic Association, and was expected to be its next President. Kohut also was famous at the Chicago Psychoanalytic Institute for teaching the best Freudian theory courses, and for writing the most engaging papers (Wolf, 1996). But he was about to abandon the theoretical basis of a brilliant career, and to slide into apostasy by creating a theory that cut the heart--the oedipal, drive-conflict concept-- out of Freud's system. His creation of self psychology would cause friends to abandon him, and important colleagues to keep their distance (Ernest Wolf, personal communication, September 1, 1997). A Kohut lecture would be condemned as not sufficiently eulogistic of Freud, and shortly after, he would be ousted from the Psychoanalytic Education Council of the Chicago Institute by a vote of its other members who would conspire by telephone to remove him, wounding him deeply (Paul Tolpin, personal communication, September 9, 1997). What could induce such a difficult and costly iconoclasm?
In the first place, many of Kohut's patients had told him that his oedipal interpretations missed the mark, and he found himself having increasing difficulty in ascribing their objections to "resistance." As he put this in his final book, How Does Analysis Cure, published posthumously,
If there is one lesson that 1 have learned during my life as an analyst, it is the lesson that what my patients tell me is likely to be true--that many times when I believed that I was right and my patients were wrong, it turned out, though often only after a prolonged search, that my rightness was superficial whereas their rightness was profound. (1984, pp. 93-94)
Secondly, his experience as President of the American Psychoanalytic Association (1964-1965) had been deeply discouraging. Ernest Wolf, a colleague, collaborator, and close friend of his, remembered Kohut remarking bitterly, and often, on the flagrant narcissism, and the self-serving political maneuvering of previously respected colleagues. According to Wolf, Kohut already had the basis for his ideas about narcissism--"by 1966 he had the makings of the new paradigm"-- but his experience of the narcissistic behavior of his colleagues may be what finally moved him to make them public (personal communication, September 1, 1997). Paul Ornstein, another close colleague and collaborator, agreed. As Ornstein remembered events, Kohut's first paper emphasizing the importance of narcissism and its treatment was presented as Kohut's Presidential Address to the Association, delivered just as his term was ending (personal communication, September 1, 1997).
Further, Kohut struggled constantly with his own narcissistic proclivities. Ernest Wolf remembered that Kohut was cautious about choosing those with whom he would speak about his theories,
not because he was haughty as some people believed, but because he was vulnerable, and needed constant mirroring. He was not arrogant, but vulnerable. In those days I would get to my office early, usually before seven when expecting an eight o'clock patient. Often around seven the phone would ring, and it would be Heinz, feeling lonely and needing to chat. It was that kind of narcissism. Not the arrogant kind of self-overestimation. (personal communication, September 1, 1997).
Paul Ornstein's account agreed with Wolf's. According to Ornstein,
He couldn't tolerate stupidity easily, and was selective about who he would invite to his home for evenings of conversation. Then he was less interested in our thoughts than in having us listen to his. Yes, in that sense he was narcissistic. Except that he had the most interesting thoughts. My perception is that some of them were awed by what he had to say, and then resented it.
Some described him as distant, uncaring about others, highly narcissistic. And of course, in that sense, narcissistic he was. Self absorbed he was. But that never interfered with his relationship with me and with Anna [Anna Ornstein, Paul's wife]. He was extremely sensitive and vulnerable, so he protected himself. (personal communication, August 29, 1997)
The Two Analyses of Mr. Z
In 1979, Kohut published a paper, The Two Analyses of Mr. Z., describing a pair of analyses that he had conducted with the same patient. The first analysis, of four and a half years duration, with meetings five times per week, took place while Kohut still practiced in the classical Freudian tradition. Mr. Z was a graduate student in his mid-twenties who presented to Kohut complaining of an inability to form relationships with women, and with a list of somatic complaints such as sweaty palms, irregular heartbeats, and a feeling of uncomfortable fullness in his stomach. The second analysis, begun after a hiatus of five years, that is, almost ten years after the beginning of the first, was carried out using Kohut's new ideas about developmental deficits in the structure of the self, narcissistic transferences, and the possibility of cure by means of selfobject experiences within the analysis. This second analysis also lasted for four and a half years with meetings five times a week. Taken together, the two analyses provided a way of comparing the clinical effects of the two differing theoretical perspectives.
The case history is complex--could any analysis of nine years duration, five days a week not be complex?--but briefly: while Mr. Z was a young child, his father became seriously ill, and while hospitalized fell in love with his nurse, eventually leaving home to live with her. While his father was away, Mr. Z, then about four years old, slept in his bed. When his father came back home again, a year and a half later, Mr. Z moved out of his father's bed, and began sleeping at the foot of his mother's bed, where he repeatedly witnessed their sexual intercourse. At that time, Mr. Z began masturbation, involving fantasies of being sold as a slave to a woman who used him to clean up her feces and urine, urinated into his mouth, and humiliated him in various other bizarre ways. Later, around age eleven, Mr. Z, had a homosexual experience with a camp counselor whom he idealized, and in whose presence he had always felt calmer and stronger.
As an adult, Mr. Z continued compulsive masturbation--his only sexual outlet--still accompanied by masochistic fantasies of servitude and humiliation. He had little social life, except for evenings out with his mother. But these embarrassing facts only emerged later in the analysis. At first, Mr. Z presented himself to Kohut as grandiose, arrogant, and superior. In the classical Freudian mode, Kohut interpreted that supercilious attitude as an expression of Mr. Z's imagined oedipal victory, when, at age three his father went to the hospital, leaving Mr. Z's mother alone with him. In that Freudian scenario, hidden behind the repression barrier lay castration anxiety and depression due to what really had been an oedipal defeat: the father's coming back. After four and a half years of making such interpretations, Kohut ended the work, pointing to a decrease in Mr. Z's masturbation and accompanying masochistic fantasies, and to Mr. Z's moving out of his mother's home and initiating some sexual experiences with women as indications of success in the work. Also, Kohut noted that Mr. Z's narcissistic demands had moderated, and that finally he was able to accept Kohut's interpretations of those demands as defenses against his repressed fear of castration. Near the end of the analysis, Mr. Z. had the following dream:
[Mr. Z] was in a house, at the inner side of a door which was a crack open. Outside was the father, loaded with gift-wrapped packages, wanting to enter. The patient was intensely frightened and attempted to close the door in order to keep the father out. (Kohut 1979, pp, 407-8)
From the same classical outlook that had determined his interpretations of his patient's narcissism, Kohut interpreted this dream as expressing Mr. Z's ambivalence towards his father, marked by fear of castration due to Mr. Z's having been living alone with his mother. Soon after, the analysis ended, time well spent in Kohut's estimation.
Five years later, Mr. Z. was back. He still suffered, it seemed, from lack of success with women, and what sexual liaisons he was able to arrange still needed to be accompanied by humiliating masochistic fantasies. He felt unhappy at work, and found life in general unsatisfactory. There was a delay before Kohut could begin analysis with Mr. Z again, but after a couple of initial appointments, used just to plan for the subsequent work, the patient began to feel better. Kohut, by this time equipped with his new theoretical lens, pictured Mr. Z's sudden improvement in mood as the result of his having established an idealization of Kohut, similar to the idealization of the camp counselor during adolescence. An initial dream in this second analysis, the image of a powerful figure of a man who evoked in Mr. Z associations to his father, to the camp counselor, and to Kohut himself, supported Kohut's idea of an idealizing transference.
This second analysis focused on Mr. Z's mother, who recently had become psychotic with paranoid delusions. Mr. Z remembered that in childhood his mother had seen him not as a person in his own right, but as an appendage. Like Portnoy's mother in Philip Roth's Portnoy's Complaint, a novel, interestingly enough, about a compulsive masturbator, Mr. Z's mother would examine his feces, and search his skin for blackheads. He was allowed no privacy; she would enter his room, unannounced, whenever she liked. In Kohut's terms, Mr. Z had been forced into a merger with his mother. In this second analysis, Mr. Z came to comprehend that his previous view of his mother as a devoted, loving parent had been one-sided, and that his mother's love was far from unconditional. Her "love" required that Mr. Z submit entirely to her demands, giving up any hope of autonomy. She gave her love only on condition that he remain for her a permanent selfobject whose presence was necessary for her to sustain her own fragmenting self, necessary, that is, for her to avoid breaking through into the psychotic core of her borderline personality. That latent psychosis, against which she always had used her merger with Mr. Z to defend, finally had emerged in her paranoid delusions when, during the course of the first analysis, Mr. Z finally had left her house for a place of his own. Kohut was surprised that almost nothing of that outr¬é parent-child relationship had emerged in the first analysis. He searched for the reason for that flaw in the first analysis, finally imputing it to his having forced upon his patient the,
convictions of a classical analyst who saw the material that the patient presented in terms of infantile drives and of conflicts about them, and of agencies of a mental apparatus either clashing or cooperating with each other. (Kohut 1979, p. 423).
And Kohut blamed himself for having become for his patient,
a replica of the mother's hidden psychosis, of a distorted outlook on the world to which he had adjusted in childhood, which he had readily accepted as reality--an attitude of compliance and acceptance that he now reinstated with regard to me and to the seemingly unshakable convictions that I held. (p. 423)
Thus, in Kohut's view, the second analysis of Mr. Z stood as a major watershed. Having understood that classical analysis forced something upon the patient, there was no going back; Kohut would have to come out of the closet with his self psychology. As he expressed this in his final writing:
This patient, as I saw clearly in the second analysis, must have confronted me, as many other analysands throughout my professional life undoubtedly had, with the recognition that his needs were primary and real and not defensive. But whereas formerly . . . I had silently made my compromises with established theory and technique, I was this time in greater need of keeping those forces in check which demanded that I acknowledge what I saw and how I saw it. These forces whispered to me that I should not only stand up for my new insights in the clinical situation but also . . . raise the findings of individual psychology to more general levels, by expressing them in a carefully chosen, well-defined terminology, and by communicating them to the broad scientific community. (1984, p. 88)
Alhough it would cost Kohut several important friends, and provoke colleagues to keep him at a distance (Ernest Wolf, personal communication, September 1, 1997), and though he struggled for a time at least to maintain Freud's language, if not his metapsychology, the cat would have to be let out of the bag.
As the second analysis of Mr. Z proceeded, Kohut concluded that the homosexual relationship with the camp counselor had not been about sex qua sex, but had been an expression of Mr. Z's need for a meaningful relationship with a strong male figure. Affiliation with his own father could not have provided that relationship, because, in early childhood, his father had almost always been away, and even after his return, Mr. Z saw him as a weak man, kowtowing to a domineering, demanding wife. As that latter awareness developed, Mr. Z suddenly appreciated why his father might want to leave home for another woman, whereupon he recovered a forgotten memory of a ski trip with his father at age nine. On the ski trip, Mr. Z had seen his father in a different light. His father, an excellent skier, had seemed at ease in the world. Also, there was a woman present who had what seemed to be a sexual relationship with his father. Perhaps she was the nurse for whom he earlier had left his wife. Mr. Z remembered having kept those details secret from his mother, as if he and his father had shared a special masculine understanding. In Kohut's view, the recovery of this memory indicated a revival, within the analysis, of Mr. Z's childhood need for a man he could idealize.
In this second analysis, Kohut no longer construed Mr. Z's having begun masturbation after witnessing his parents intercourse as an expression of incestuous fantasies. This time, Kohut explained the masturbation as Mr. Z's attempts to regulate the overstimulation of his undeveloped self occasioned by his mother's demanding that Mr. Z merge into her adult experience. That merger, in Kohut's conception, precluded Mr. Z's own normal experience which would have furnished the phase appropriate, gentler stimulation of a child's increasing autonomy. And Kohut now perceived Mr. Z's masochistic fantasies not as manifestations of unconscious guilt for his oedipal fantasies, but as symbols of domination by his unstable, demanding mother.
As the second analysis drew to a close, Mr. Z reintroduced the earlier dream of being frightened when his father appeared at the door with gifts. This time, Kohut proffered a different interpretation, no longer construing the dream as a reference to fear of castration. From the viewpoint of his new self psychology, and in the light of the recovered memories of the ski trip, Kohut understood the dream as expressing a yearning for the father and the gifts he carried--masculinity and psychological strength--gifts which the child's enfeebled self, due its enmeshment as a permanent selfobject for his mother, had not been able to receive. From that perspective, closing the door was not an attempt to protect himself from a castrating father figure, but rather an effort to modulate the excitement he had felt at the return of his long-absent father.
In the classical view, according to Kohut (1979), the psyche of Mr. Z could be pictured schematically as having a horizontal split: Freud's repression barrier. Above the horizontal split was Mr. Z's overt grandiosity and arrogance due to his imaginary oedipal victory over his father upon his father's departure. Below the horizontal split, that is, below conscious awareness, lay Mr. Z's castration anxiety and depression due to his actual oedipal defeat occasioned by his father's return.
In Kohut's new paradigm, the psyche of Mr. Z was split vertically. To one side of the split lay Mr. Z's overt arrogance and superiority "on the basis of a persisting merger with the . . . idealized mother [who] confirms the patient's superiority over father provided patient remains an appendage of her" (p. 446). To the other side of the vertical split, lay another part of Mr. Z's psyche, this part alone divided by a repression barrier ¬à la Freud. Above the repression barrier, that is consciously, Mr. Z experienced impaired self-esteem, depression, and masochism. And this is what was split off (vertically) from his arrogance; in other words, when he was feeling arrogant, he was protected against his depression and low self-regard. Below the repression barrier was not castration anxiety as in the Freudian understanding, but rage against his domineering mother, as well as self-assertive male sexuality with which he could not get in touch.
The difference between these two schemata is striking. For the Freudian Kohut, Mr. Z's grandiosity was the outcome of an imagined oedipal victory, but that inflated self-image rested on a shaky footing, for below the repression barrier, just outside of conscious perception, lay the anxiety of paternal reprisals through castration. For Kohut the self psychologist, Mr. Z's grandiosity had nothing to do with the vicissitudes of the oedipal situation. Rather it was a defense against the depression and low self-esteem originating in the patient's lack of proper mirroring by his mother. In other words, Mr. Z's arrogance signified a failure of normal development in the "grandiose sector" of the self due to his mother's never having appreciated Mr. Z for himself, but only as a selfobject serving her needs, a reversal of the appropriate parent-child relationship. As long as his defensive grandiosity was dominant, Mr. Z could not properly make the idealizing connection to a male figure that he needed to be healed. But once Kohut properly understood and explained Mr. Z's arrogance, Mr. Z was free to idealize Kohut, and, through that idealization, slowly to incorporate the selfobject analyst, that is, to make the functions that Kohut was carrying out for him become part of him. According to Kohut, he learned later that the second analysis really had been helpful: Mr. Z was happily married, and was regarded as outstandingly successful in his chosen career.
Was Kohut Mr. Z?
Recall that Ernest Wolf said Kohut "was vulnerable, and needed constant mirroring" (personal communication, September 1, 1997), and that Paul Ornstein remembered Kohut as, "distant, uncaring about others, highly narcissistic. And of course, in that sense, narcissistic he was. . . . he was extremely sensitive and vulnerable, so he protected himself" (personal communication, August 29, 1997). Clearly, Kohut's interest in narcissism was not just theoretical, but personal. With that in mind, and knowing that some of Freud's "cases" were really self-analyses ascribed to fictitious patients, I wondered about the faint rumors among self psychologists that Mr. Z
may have been Kohut himself. A number of Kohut disciples, seemingly concerned about wounding Kohut's narcissism posthumously, proved reluctant to discuss that question, but eventually, some in Kohut's inner circle found my inquiries worthy of reply.
According to Paul Stepansky, who collaborated in the postmortem publication of Kohut's final book, "Betty [his wife], and Tom [his son] confirmed to me that Kohut was Mr. Z" (personal communication, December 9, 1996). On hearing Stepansky's testimony, Ernest Wolf, Kohut's close friend and collaborator, agreed that Kohut must have been Mr. Z:
For one thing, there are many parallels between Mr. Z's case and Kohut's own biography. Like Mr. Z, Kohut's father was absent [he was away at war], and after returning was chronically depressed. Also, Kohut was not allowed to go to school with other children, but was educated at home by a tutor who may have been the camp counselor in the Mr. Z case history. Anyway, I long ago accepted that Mr. Z was Kohut's self-analysis, even before the controversy. Freud did it all the time. I never even needed to ask him. (personal communication, September 1, 1997)
Paul Tolpin, who was one of Kohut's analysands, and who, along with Michael Basch, John Gedo, Arnold Goldberg, David Marcus, and Paul Ornstein, attended chapter-by-chapter readings of Kohut's first book in progress, had this to say:
I think it's highly likely that he was [Mr. Z]. In fact years ago, before anybody was talking about it, I realized from things he had said about himself that it did sound like him. He had let things drop that sounded so much like Mr. Z. He had an analysis with Ruth Eissler in Chicago and hated it, and the only other analysis he had after that was with himself. He spoke about being a lonely child, and how important his tutor was to him. That tutor was like the camp counselor in Mr. Z.
My wife [Marian Tolpin], and Ernie [Wolf], and I got together one night and somehow it all came out that each of the three of us already had been thinking that it was a possibility. There were so many points of convergence between his story and Mr. Z's. He may have put together parts of himself with parts of somebody else. It is hard to think of Kohut tasting his own feces which is part of that case too. . . . I guess we don't like to think of that in our leaders. They should be healthy people who understand the ill.
Some people feel that it was improper to use himself and to say that he had discovered that in other people, but Freud also created things right out of his own development. Like when he peed in the pot in his father's bedroom, and the father said "You'll never grow up to be a decent man," and that became castration anxiety. I don't know that men do have that kind of castration anxiety. It's possible, but it doesn't come up in patients of mine who focus on that specifically.
Whether all the details are correct or whether he intensified the case to get across the desperateness of this poor man in order to demonstrate his theory, I think he was Mr. Z. (personal communication, September 10, 1997).
Paul Ornstein, a member, along with Tolpin, of the early Kohut group, edited and wrote the introductions for volumes of Kohut's papers. He and Kohut worked together closely. This is what he thought of the Kohut-Mr. Z connection:
Many analysts before, including Freud and Anna Freud, have presented self-analyses as if they came from patients. When someone finds certain constellations, genetic or dynamic, as a result of self-analysis, he is bound to see them also in other people. Also, Kohut had a case from a German analyst that he wanted to use in Restoration of the Self. At the last minute, the German analyst changed his mind, and refused to let Kohut publish the case, so Kohut used Mr. Z. But Kohut burned his letters before his death, so now we will never know.
In any case, for me it is irrelevant. The speculation is that the first analysis was Kohut's analysis with Ruth Eissler in Chicago, and the second, his own, but what is important to me is not whether Kohut was Mr. Z--although he may have been--but extracting the essence of the meaning of the comparison of the two analyses. I think that the meaning of the nature of the interpretation of the dream in the first and the second is the clinching aspect of what sort of changes he arrived at in his theory. That is, rather than seeing the dream as a defense against oedipal feelings, he felt at that moment that it was a self protection against overstimulation.
And yet, the need for the gift from the father--because that is a theory of his also, how to have masculine substance in yourself--and the recapturing of the relationship with the father that time at the ski resort, seemed to describe how he saw psychoanalysis and what it can do, and what the transference is all about. So, very sketchily, the dream is what he saw as describing the essential difference in the two analyses. Also, the other major point related to it was that rather than seeing what Mr. Z presented as defensive, seeing it as expressing what he experienced. And that is a major difference. (personal communication, August 29, 1997)
Later, Ornstein went on to say that,
If a theory is going to be good, it has to come from within, from the authenticity and validity at the personal level. The analysts who live on are the ones whose contribution definitely occurred through self-analysis. (personal communication, August 31, 1997)
On that point, Ernest Wolf told me that,
The ideas of a certain theorist--I won't say who it is, but you can probably guess [I could not guess]--were received this way by the other analysts: "Ah, yes. That sounds just like many of my patients." But Kohut's ideas were received like this: "Ah, yes. That reminds me of myself. Do you see the difference in that? Kohut's ideas were alive because they came from within, from deep self-analysis. (personal communication, September 1, 1997)
Given these opinions from some of the people closest to him, I conclude that Kohut was Mr. Z, and that the watershed "case" in self psychology was not work with a patient, but Kohut's personal confession of his struggles to comprehend, and treat his own "narcissistic personality," which manifested in such "symptoms" as unrelenting needs to excel professionally, a biting loneliness even when surrounded by friends, an unremitting desire to be always the center of attention, surrounded by admirers, and, as we shall see, a urgent need to define psychoanalysis not as an art, but as a science.
Why Did Kohut Need Mr. Z?
If the important and vital ideas in psychology always come from self-analysis, as Ornstein and Wolf said, then why would Kohut dissimulate the source of his theories? Since it was widely known that a chief source of Freud's theories was his own self-analysis, and since, as Jung observed, "in psychology the means by which you . . . observe the psyche is the psyche itself . . . the observer is the observed . . . psyche is not only the object but also the subject of our science" (1935/1980, pp. 125-126), then why not, in the manner of a mystic making a religious confession, simply proclaim, "I was moved by my own pain to seek, and this is what I found"?
In the first place, Kohut would have been uncomfortable showing the wounded side of himself. He had always hidden his Jewishness, certainly, for a boy from Vienna, a kind of psychic wound. Even after arriving in Chicago, he went to great lengths of deceit and concealment to keep colleagues from learning that he was a Jew; most of them never found out (Strozier, 1985). Further, his persona was the antithesis of a wounded man. The public Kohut was a man about town, cosmopolitan, energetic, suave, and charismatic--a literate, artistic, bon vivant--and all this while amassing an impressive reputation as a scholar, psychoanalyst, and psychodynamic theoretician. How could he have endured undermining that facade with admissions of masturbating to fantasies of drinking urine as a sex slave? Thus, ironically, Kohut's own narcissistic personality, the very ailment which he claimed to have treated successfully in the case of Mr. Z, impeded a confession of the real source of his metapsychology: self-analysis.
But, one might ask, could not Kohut have left out the most embarrassing details of the case and then offered it as self-analysis? For him that would have been difficult, for omitting data would not have been "scientific," and the compulsion to see psychoanalysis as a science runs through Kohut's writing like a red thread. There were no omissions. Kohut reported every last detail as if Mr. Z's case history really were a scientific document, but then took the greatest measures to dissemble, including offering subsequent reflections on the case of Mr. Z, written years later, in which he further underscored that he and Mr. Z were two different people:
I believe no perceptive analyst will have any difficulty understanding why I was so consistent, in my demand that Mr. Z. face his Oedipus complex; why with increasing firmness I rejected the reactivation of his narcissistic attitudes, expectations, and demands. (1984, p. 88)
As I see it, excursions into psychobiography--like this look at Kohut--and the sister of psychobiography, case analysis, are not science, but occasions for a kind of subjective speculation that may be more or less informed. From that viewpoint, case analysis is a kind of imaginal activity. In good clinical work, a hermeneutic feedback loop may help keep the therapist's fantasies on a track that really does somehow relate to the patient, but working with such conjectures always will entail traversing slippery slopes of interpretation that are more appropriate to literary exegesis than to anything that can be called scientific. Of course in the postmodern view, even science no longer is considered "objective," since no methodology can eliminate completely the personal components that influence what is studied and how (Polanyi, 1958), but still, the humanities and the sciences normally are considered as occupying different portions of the subjectivity-objectivity spectrum. Kohut knew that; nevertheless, for him, it was extraordinarily urgent that self psychology be situated firmly within the precincts of science. Kohut desired that psychoanalytic practice be based upon a fixed methodology which could be practiced by any competent analyst more or less equally well, and he demanded a strict definition of what constituted a psychoanalytic "cure," that is, he wanted psychoanalysis to be science, not poetics.
In the age of Freud, as I have suggested, the authority of thought had a dominance which today few would assign it, and so one readily understands that, from Freud's perspective, psychoanalysis, if it were to be widely accepted, had to seem scientific. Further, we have seen that Freud, doubting that he had sufficient credentials or practical knowledge to make a success as a physician, wanted his new creation, in which he did hope to make a career, to appear to be a form of medicine. Years later, his guilty ambivalence about crediting psychoanalysis with a medical status it really did not deserve moved him, I believe, to write his 1926 essay, The Question of Lay Analysis, a vigorous defense of a non-medical member of the Vienna Psycho-Analytical Society who was being prosecuted for quackery. In that treatise, Freud wrote,
After forty one years of medical activity, my self-knowledge tells me that I have never really been a doctor in the proper sense . . . I have no knowledge of having had any craving in my early childhood to help suffering humanity . . . . I passed my medical examinations, but I took no interest in anything to do with medicine till the teacher whom I so deeply respected [Ernst von Br¬ücke] warned me that in view of my impoverished material circumstances I could not possibly take up a theoretical career. (1926/1969, pp. 104-105)
Hence, we understand that the scientific status Freud sought for psychoanalysis was partly a product of his historico-cultural milieu, and partly of his need to legitimize a faltering career. In short, Freud had invented a new product, psychoanalysis; then he needed to sell it. Advertising the product as "scientific," and himself as a scientist, was the best sales pitch, both for the product and for himself.
But why did Kohut want psychoanalysis to be strictly a science? His career was not faltering; on the contrary, he was a star. Further, the 1970s marked an apogee of existential-humanism which would have been glad to accept the selfobject concepts of self psychology not as science, but as an important insight into the human dilemma of desiring autonomy while being deeply dependent upon others. It might be argued that Kohut's background was in the science of neurology, and that his later training had been at the Chicago Institute where the connection between medicine and psychoanalysis was taken for granted, so that Kohut was just doing what he had been trained to do: science. But that won't wash. After all, his challenge to Freud was a radical departure from both his training and, in some ways, his self-interest; if he could do that, he certainly could have left behind the rest of his professional indoctrination.
One perspective on this question involves a bit of history from the Freud-Jung-Adler era. When Adler defected from the circle of loyalists around Freud by proposing that feelings of inferiority were as basic, or perhaps more basic, to human motivation than Freud's drives, Freud's grandiosity drove him to respond with a thinly disguised ad hominem attack. Seizing upon a statement of Adler's that he (Adler) could not live forever in Freud's shadow, Freud put all the motivation for Adler's defection in oedipal conflict terms, and left no room for the possibility that Adler's ideas might contain valuable insights. Thus, for Freud, as soon as Adler's ideas could be psychoanalyzed, they no longer had value as "science." Kohut was aware of this story; he referred to it in his last book (1984). We have seen that Kohut went to lengths to obscure his Jewish background, and to falsify the personal origins of his self psychology. I believe that Kohut wanted to keep the intimate origins of his theory secret because he feared being exposed as a Jew (wounded man), and as a neurotic (wounded man) who had masturbated compulsively, eaten his own feces, and fantasized being humiliated at the hands of women. His urbane, masterful persona was, in Jungian terminology, compensatory to those other sides of his personality, serving both to conceal and to attempt to bridge an unusually severe split between ego and psyche. If Kohut could establish that psychoanalytic self psychology was science, that is, proclaim that his metapsychology existed objectively, regardless of its origins in his own (from his point of view, neurotic) personality, then his own subjectivity would never have to be disparaged--as Adler's had been by Freud--nor even come under investigation and scrutiny. Thus, for Kohut, scientific objectivity could function as a cloak for his own personality about which he was so unusually ashamed.
Kohut knew that psychoanalysis could not really be science. In fact, tacitly acknowledging that, he attempted to invent a new classification, the "scientific humanities" (1980, p. 504), which would more plausibly contain his work while still providing some of the camouflage of scientific objectivity. He knew that works in the humanities were studied, and often to some extent evaluated, with reference to the personalities of their creators (1978c, pp. 908 ff.). If self psychology were seen not to be science, but personal confession, Kohut, possibly largely unconsciously, feared that 1) his work would be debased by its association to the covert aspects of his wounded selfhood; and 2) that the more questionable aspects of his conduct and personality would come to light. For a proud man like Kohut, whose self-esteem depended upon his image of mastery, superiority, and power, that would have been a narcissistic injury beyond toleration.
I believe that this analysis finds support in the unusual vehemence with which Kohut, in his last, posthumously published work, stated his demand that workers in science not be subjected to psychoanalytic investigation, nor their work evaluated with regard to their personal motivations. After admitting, albeit reluctantly, that one's experience of a work of art or literature might be enriched by learning about its creator, he went on to assert that,
The motivations and purposes of the scientist are, as far as our judgment of the value of his contribution is concerned, not only irrelevant but to be actively excluded from consideration. However challenging it may be to study the personality of a scientist, whether as the investigation of the personality of a specific individual or a contribution to our understanding of human creativity, his work must ultimately be judged on its intrinsic merits alone. Whatever the personal reasons for undertaking a scientific task might have been, as far as science is concerned, it is only the accuracy, truth, and relevance of the result that ultimately count. . . . Scientific work, including work in psychology in general and psychoanalysis in particular, must be judged on its intrinsic merits, that is, with regard to its explanatory power. The personality, the mental state, the specific motivations of the contributor should not influence our judgment about the value of the theories and findings presented to us. (1984, pp. 34-35, emphasis mine)
One subtlety here is this: after laboriously staking out a new category for psychoanalysis four years earlier as a part of the "scientific humanities," here, without even an attempt at justification, he finessed that classification, simply putting "work in psychology in general and psychoanalysis in particular" back into the realm of "scientific work." For a man who was so careful with words, and usually so logically consistent, this is quite an oversight. More evidence, it seems to me, for the proposition that Kohut needed self psychology to be science.
Why is this important? Does it matter whether Kohut's theories belong to science or the humanities, or whether they originated in observations of others or in self-analysis? Is it not enough that Kohut's metapsychology, like that of Freud and Jung before him, has been accepted as valid by many intelligent and trustworthy psychotherapists who appreciate self psychology for its theoretical elegance, and what they consider its apparent effectiveness as a therapeutic modality? In the chapter to follow, I will go into those questions further, by examining the relationship between psychological theory and the practice of psychotherapy, with particular reference to the possible costs and possible benefits of cognitive commitments to metapsychological theory as the basis for work in psychotherapy.
ON THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN PSYCHOTHERAPY
AND METAPSYCHOLOGICAL THEORY
Regarding Analytic Objectivity
In the postmodern understanding, objectivity is a fantasy, and truth is a fiction. The observer is not separate from the observed. Moreover, a particular scientific instrument, or a particular theory influences, even dictates, what observations are made, so that observed "facts" really are artifacts. The story is told of a man who loses his house key. He is discovered looking for it under a streetlamp by another man who begins helping in the search. A long time passes without success.
"Are you sure this is where you dropped it?" the helper finally asks.
"No," replies the first man. "I dropped it over there, but light is better here."
In psychology, we see what we see in the
light of one theory or another, and we may fail to see what we fail to see
because the theory we are using does not shed light there. Pretending to a kind
of agnostic objectivity by claiming to believe in no theory at all does not
avail, for that also is a point of view. When imaginal psychologists, for
example, reject classical Jungian dream interpretation--which, justifiably in my
view, they reproach as mired in hackneyed interpretations and reductionistic
conventions--in favor of letting the multitude of images speak for themselves,
that also is a point of view: one that presupposes that images can speak
for themselves. James Hillman himself, the originator of the archetypal
approach, admitted that archetypal psychologists base their observations on a
set of tenets:
The stubborn refusal to budge from apodictic assertions like stick to the image and all is fantasy shows a stiff-necked pride within archetypal psychology. It takes its own tenets as commandments given from the mountain. (1992, p. 125)
But then, in his next paragraph, he strove to put the tenets of archetypal psychology in a separate category from all other tenets:
The tenets to which archetypal psychology clings make it not only incapable of believing in the theories and findings of other psychologies, they also make belief itself impossible. To believe in a fantasy is delusion; to believe in an image, idolatry. So belief itself must go, not merely its contents. (p. 125)
Now the proposition that somehow this one particular mode of thought can insist apodictically upon its own ideas while, at the same time standing outside of itself, seeing itself as fantasy, seems to me to be a fantasy worth noticing. In a sense, this proposition feels like a latter-day extension of the argument of Husserl (1913/1990), who attempted to provide a logical basis for a "pure psychology," that would limit its purview to unadulterated phenomenological observations of the data of subjective experiences without necessarily ascribing meaning to those experiences. The observations would be carried out by psychologists who adopted the attitude of "detached and disinterested" beholders of the mental life of their subjects. Still, it seems to me, that Husserl's suggested outlook, a kind of knowledgeable naivete, also is a theory--the theory that a human being through adopting an intentional attitude, or following a purposeful procedure may obtain freedom from all assumptions about causes and consequences--an so, by its own theoretical weight, that outlook forecloses any possibility of an authentic naivete, that is, one that would be only phenomenological. Besides, in the light of Barratt's, observation, in my view undisputable, that the "ˆîI' of enunciation never thinks just what it thinks it thinks, and never simply is what it thinks it is" (supra), who exactly would be Husserl's pure psychologists? Who would be making those allegedly dispassionate observations, immune even from prejudices hidden unwittingly behind the repression barrier, prejudices even more likely to weigh upon the supposedly impartial scales of investigation than consciously held opinions, for which at least some knowing compensation could be made? In this regard, I find myself in agreement with Hillman (1975) who wrote that "phenomenology stops short in its examination of consciousness, failing to realize that the essence of consciousness is fantasy images" (p. 138). To that I would add that the inevitable presence of those fantasy images of which the supposed "pure psychologist" is not even consciously aware is what most limits the usefulness of approaching psyche by imagining that one may "bracket" one's personal, embodied point of view. It seems to me that a psychologist does better when admitting that, contrary to Husserl's concept, there are no dispassionate observers, and no dispassionate observations; it is precisely the personally felt inward suffering of such subjective experiences as desire, fear, existential anxiety, and perplexity, and not their "pure" phenomenology, that need the attention of psychotherapists.
Since, in Husserl's (1913/1990) schema, knowing one's own consciousness was the only "fact" about which one could be certain, he based his method of psychological investigation upon the procedure of beginning with the first person. By eschewing all presuppositions, he claimed, one could strip away the influence of the objects of experience, arriving at the intrinsic, base-line reality of the mental processes--the so-called "objective functions"--that underlay consciousness. Once having come into contact with the objective functions of one's own first person mentation, thereby gaining awareness of the "logical structures" that produce meanings from what he considered to be the raw material of perceptions, one could, by means of "transcendental intersubjectivity," extrapolate that awareness to gain conjectural knowledge of the essential consciousness of other people. Husserl's first step, the eschewing of all presuppositions, was what he called "epoche," or "bracketing," that is, setting one's own point of view aside.
Now Hillman's (1975) statement that phenomenology fails understand that the substance of consciousness is fantasy images, implies, as I understand it, that Husserl was lost in his own fantasy images--images of Promethean intellectual comprehension, for example--and, that being lost in them, he was unaware that they even existed. Thus, Husserl's "pure psychology," which he cleverly, if somewhat obscurely, justified with logical arguments, cannot be said to be in any way "objective," or even, in my view, to be particularly conscious. His pure psychology is not conscious because it is based on the ignis fatuus that a method or systematic procedure can lead to objective understanding of one's own mental structures, and, by means of extrapolation, the mental structures of others. As Hillman said,
We must know the archetypal substructures which govern our reactions; we must recognize the Gods and the myths in which we are embroiled. Without this awareness, our behaviour becomes wholly mythic and consciousness a delusion. (1979, p. x)
Thus, the only possibility of human objectivity, in Hillman's terms, would be to know completely the "archetypal substructures" underlying our lives. But is this possible? And even if it were possible, the Gods themselves were never "objective"--indeed their myths are filled with desire, sexual passion, conflict, favoritism, jealousy, and revenge--therefore, in fully seeing those archetypal substructures, we would find ourselves to be archetypally subjective, not objective "pure psychologists" ¬à la Husserl.
Jung said that he considered his contribution to psychology to be his "subjective confession," but then, unfortunately in my view, went on to imply that "an objective psychology" could be attained:
It is my personal psychology, my prejudice that I see psychological facts as I do. I admit that I see things in such and such a way. . . . So far as we admit our personal prejudice, we are really contributing towards an objective psychology. (1935/1980. p. 125)
But to admit one's personal prejudices, one must first be aware of them, so Jung's "subjective confession" implies that he knew his personal prejudices. However, according to Noll's biographies (1994, 1997) of Jung, his claim to a personally individuated consciousness, that is, to self awareness, was, in Hillman's sense, also a delusion, since, paradoxically, Jung was seemingly unaware of the Dionysian reenactment, complete with ritualized polygamy, that he created around himself, and in which he himself was embroiled.
Like Dionysus at the center of his orgiastic mystical cult, Jung's influence shattered the bonds of ordinary social life. The daughters, and occasionally the sons, of many prominent families left their homes, their parents, and their spouses to live close to Jung and to "be in analysis." Many never returned, becoming like the maenads surrounding Dionysus. As if fashioned by a twentieth century version of the Greek god of fertility, ritual dance, and mysticism, Jung's therapy aimed at producing the ecstatic experience of standing outside of oneself (the transcendent function), and at engendering enthusiasm (feeling the Self within). And, as if Jung's clinical work were a reenactment of the Dionysian mystery, often the devotee (analysand) and the god (Jung) became identical, merged in the alchemical bath of hermaphroditic union, and often, according to Noll (1997) in the non-alchemical bedsheets of copulatory union too.
So it was not just the intellectualism of Husserl that fell short of noticing fantasy images. Apparently, even such a famous imaginal psychologist as Jung could not keep track of his own data. Similarly, the fantasy of "objectivity," which seems an irresistible siren song to psychologists, whom one imagines should know better, runs through most, if not all, clinical metapsychologies, albeit often in disguise. Simply to conduct a relationship with another human being, using all of oneself subjectively, and allowing the depth of that relationship to serve as the model for, as well as the experience of, healing seems too obvious, too unsophisticated, too simpleminded, too "unprofessional," and perhaps, too dangerous. The clinician demands theories, categories, expertise. In other words, the clinician dearly wants a vantage somehow above the fray. If epoche--"pure" psychological objectivity--is not possible, then at least the therapist wants insulation, distance, perspective: "clinical objectivity," which, the fantasy goes, will be obtained through studying theory and technique, and perhaps by being analyzed oneself.
But let us assume that: 1) epoche is possible, and that 2) epoche itself is not really a psychological theory--although of course it is one--but more, as Husserl imagined, a means. Assume, that is, that one may step outside of ordinary engagement in the desiderata of human existence in favor of a non-judgmental, "pure" phenomenological remove. Assume that it is possible, that is, to see a patient as if knowing absolutely nothing about that person. Why then must a psychotherapist bring any psychological theory at all into the consulting room? Why carry such a burden? Why, for example, should I call the feelings that my patient has for me a transference, with all that implies, and the feelings I have for him or her a countertransference? Why not just call such feelings love? After all, love is love, isn't it? And if those feelings in the consulting room aren't love, then why are the feelings between husband and wife love?
This question is important, because adherence to theories, even quite good ones, has a powerful downside. Like the man searching for his house key, one tends to explore where the streetlamp of theory casts its illumination, and to avoid looking in the shadows where things are more obscure. As this sometimes is said, a person with a hammer is always looking for nails to pound. If one's theories become pet theories, then not only does too much of the looking take place under the streetlamp, and too little in the shadows, but even worse, one no longer even notices that there are shadows. In animal studies, this is called "premature cognitive commitment." For instance, if houseflies are born in a jar with a glass cover they will at first try to fly out, but soon they will stop trying. Later, if the glass cover is removed, almost all of the flies will remain within the jar, trapped as if by their own assumptions. If kittens, raised in a room with only vertical lines, later are put in a room with horizontal obstacles, the kittens will not see them, and will suffer constant collisions. Kittens raised in a room with only horizontal lines suffer the same fate if put in a room with vertical obstacles.
Because the psychoanalytical situation is never one in which an objective observer (the analyst) studies the subject (the patient), but rather an ongoing experience of mutual communication within an intersubjective space (see Stolorow, 1994a), and because this communication takes place on many levels simultaneously, some of which are remote from conscious awareness, the analyst's premature cognitive commitments are certain to be communicated, at least on some levels, to the patient. For instance, the therapist may unknowingly lean forward with interest when the patient mentions a dream, wordlessly communicating that dreams are important, and might unmindfully yawn when a problem at work is mentioned, indicating that quotidian troubles are unimportant. Once communicated, the prejudicial effects of the analyst's cognitive biases can be severely compounded by the patient's inadvertent complicity, intentional connivance, or both. For example, it is well known that the patients of Freudian analysts have "Freudian dreams," the patients of Jungians have "Jungian dreams," and so forth. At that point, the entire analytic process has become compromised. No longer is the "analysis" an examination and deliberation of the patient's material; it has become a process by which the analyst, probably unwittingly, seeks to confirm personal prowess as a healer, and to corroborate the efficacy of the pet theory.
The danger of falling into premature cognitive commitment is exacerbated by the obvious phenomenon of therapists being attracted to theories that suit their own personalities. Perhaps a particular theory has been helpful in dealing with one's own problems, or somehow the theory somehow just "makes sense," that is, it seems intuitively correct, and seems to evoke immediate, and noncritical, substantiation within one's own circumstances. In either case, evidence for the theory may accumulate easily, while evidence against it may go all but unnoticed. Once that starts to happen, the theory, if not yet a "pet," certainly has its nose in the door, and may soon be invited to come inside and jump up onto the sofa.
Schools of analysis have evolved through clinical experience being interpreted in various ways, and "as with schismatic groups in religion, through a recognition that there has been some serious omission, or overemphasis, in the thinking of other schools" (Casement, 1985, p. 348). At first, the correction is helpful, but then, "the part-truth, newly highlighted by the fresh thinking, all too often comes to be elevated as being the truth" (p. 348). For example, Kohut's idea of a bipolar self, which he saw as supraordinate to the mental apparatus--ego, id, and superego--of classical drive theory, even if not "correct," certainly served as a welcome and useful antidote to the hegemony of Freudian doctrine which had by then become gospel, used by some analysts to explain everything. Unfortunately, Kohut's work, which at first had been aimed at treating a particular kind of problem--narcissistic disorders--that he believed was not effectively addressed by drive theory, also has evolved into a comprehensive metapsychology that now is used by some self psychologists to explain, and to treat, everything from severe psychosis to drug addiction. If Freud's theory of intrapsychic conflict could not explain everything, why should Kohut's theory of developmental deficits be able to explain everything?
Even in the unlikely event that a theory could explain everything, such a theory would still have a downside if it became a pet theory. Recall Kohut's saying: "many times when I believed that I was right and my patients were wrong, it turned out . . . that my rightness was superficial whereas their rightness was profound" (supra). I understand this as meaning that his rightness was theoretical, hence shallow, whereas the patients' rightness was a deep inner knowledge of what their lives were about, and what was needed for healing. Those in clinical work who are accustomed to applying theory and technique to a patient as if applying wrenches to an automobile engine--the right wrench properly wielded will turn the bolt--might witness more of that inner wisdom if they remained open to noticing it. Attachment to theory and technique gets in the way of that openness.
If the analytic situation is regarded as an intersubjective field, a system of reciprocal mutual influence (see Stolorow, 1994b), then healing depends upon relatedness and upon bilateral communication within that field, not the analyst's proffering of "right" interpretations. In fact, interpretations, even if they are "right," even if they could explain everything, often have more power to wound than to heal. Theoretical interpretations, unless they also happen to communicate something necessary to the relationship between analyst and analysand, can even be felt as psychic rape. Winnicott (1965) believed that often a beginning analyst will do better work than years later after learning more and becoming settled in theory. The neophyte does not mind going slowly; after all, he or she is learning, and still has what Zen Buddhism calls the beginner's mind, an ability always to see things as fresh and new. Later, having more patients and more erudition,
he begins to make interpretations based not on material supplied on that particular day by the patient but on his own accumulated knowledge or his adherence for the time being to a particular group of ideas. This is of no use to the patient. The analyst may appear to be very clever, and the patient may express admiration, but in the end the correct interpretation is a trauma, which the patient has to reject because it is not his. (p. 51)
The correct interpretation is a trauma!
Reliance on theory carries with it another pitfall. Since theory is a generalization, often stated in impersonal, usually academic, jargon, the adherents of that theory may come to behave as if mere habitual employment of the detached, apparently disinterested terminology furnished a kind of objectivity or analytic neutrality. Without even going into the question of how much objectivity is implied by a term like "borderline personality disorder," the objective analyst, in my opinion, is a mirage; there is no analytic neutrality. Husserl's "pure psychology" notwithstanding, the analyst always brings a self of his or her own into the room, and that self has no way of being neutral.
Stolorow (1994c) offered some useful illustrations of supposed analytical neutrality which, in his view, turn out to be far from neutral. For example, Freud (1915, cited by Stolorow, 1994c, p. 146) stated that "treatment must be carried out in abstinence," by which he meant that gratifying the patient's desires would interfere with the analytic goal of bringing repressed instinctual drives into awareness. Freud's stance of abstinence often is equated, particularly by Freudian analysts, with neutrality. But is it neutral? According to Stolorow, no, because for the analyst who practices it, "abstinence is an expression of the deeply held belief system to which he adheres in conducting his analytic work [including] basic assumptions about human nature and psychological illness and health" (p. 146). Further, from the point of view of the patient, abstinence would never feel neutral. Who would experience intentional frustration of one's needs and desires as neutral? According to Stolorow, such inflexible abstinence produces hostility and conflicts that are "more an artifact of the therapist's stance than a genuine manifestation of the patient's primary pathology" (p. 146). Similarly, Freud's idea that the analyst should appear opaque and anonymous to his patients contradicts the "interactive nature of the analytic process. Everything the analyst does or says--including most especially the interpretations he offers--are products of his psychological organization, disclosing central aspects of his personality to the patient" (p. 146). Thus, the "opacity" of the analyst is no more than an unrealizable chimera perpetuated in an authoritative sounding theory that has little relation to what really happens in the consulting room. It is a fancy of the analyst, aimed at insulating his or her ego against the potentially fearful knowledge that psychoanalysis is a two-way street, and that the analyst will be seen and known as well as the patient. Often the opaque persona, clearly a defense mechanism, is rationalized by the claim that by remaining neutral the analyst is better facilitating the formation of transferences, but that won't wash. Transferences form both way always; they do not need facilitation, but comprehension.
To take this a little further, wanting to seem objective or scientific by adhering to a strictly organized theory as a basis for psychotherapy leads many therapists into the preposterous position of saying one thing when they speak or write theoretically, and doing quite another when they practice. When Freud wrote that the analyst should be opaque to his patients, showing them nothing of himself, but only acting as a mirror for their behaviors, that was his theoretical stance, and that recommendation has spawned several generations of obedient Freudians who decline even to shake hands with their patients, much less meet them outside of the consulting room. For instance, in Fairbairn's analysis of Guntrip, a younger colleague, Fairbairn never once shook hands with Guntrip until the conclusion of their work together, and then only at Guntrip's behest (Guntrip, 1975). Parenthetically, Fairbairn seems to have been a schizoid type (see Grotstein & Rinsley, 1994), for whom impersonality and emotional abstinence would have been as natural as fleas on a dog anyway; thus, his adoption of the analytic opacity part of Freudian theory clearly was ego syntonic. In practice, however, Freud himself often met his analysands socially, even to the extent of going on holiday with some of them, leaving us to wonder how many of his cures really were analytic, as he used that concept in his stated theories, and how many were so-called "transference cures"--much disparaged by orthodox psychoanalysts--produced, not by making the unconscious conscious, but via the stimulating influence of the great man's personality upon the persons of his patients.
Why then, would Freud say one thing and do another? If Freud really was treating patients by spending hours in their bedrooms conversing with charm and courtliness (the young women), or drinking port and smoking cigars after dinner (the men), why would he promulgate a theoretical approach that demanded analytic abstinence? I think the answer to that question should be stated in three parts. First, the Freudian part: because "the ˆîI' of enunciation never . . . simply is what it thinks it is" (Barratt, supra). Second, the Kohutian part: because his patients were selfobjects for him, but he shied away from admitting that to himself, that is, to use the pop-psych jargon, Freud was "in denial" of his selfobject needs. Third: sometimes he really did practice abstinence. Lest this be taken as yet another blow in the barrage of Freud-bashing that now seems de rigueur, let me hasten to state that I admire Freud's writings. My point here is not that Freud in his clinical work said one thing, and did another, but that we all do. And for the same reasons as Freud. First, we don't really know who we are, what we stand for, or what we really are doing (and the more we think we do, the less we really do). Second, our patients are selfobjects for us whether we can admit that to ourselves or whether we need to be "in denial." Third, most of us really do feel theoretical commitments, and we act in accordance with them some of the time, the rest of the time often needing to make believe that we are acting in accordance with them.
Kohut moved away from Freudian practice partly in disagreement with the idea that abstinence was neutrality, but then he also claimed that analytic neutrality was achievable, defining it as "the responsiveness to be expected, on an average, from persons who have devoted their life to helping others with the aid of insights obtained via the empathic immersion into their inner life" (1977, p. 252). Such responsiveness, in my view, is not neutrality. Like the idea of abstinence, it also is rooted in a theoretical belief system, albeit one that posits the analyst's empathic attunement to the inner life of the patient as the healing factor in therapy, and the development of a healthy "self" as therapy's goal. Further, since, according to Kohut, being seen by means of empathic attunement will satisfy one of the patient's deepest desires--the desire to be "mirrored"--how could an such an analysis be experienced by the patient as a neutral situation? And how can a therapist constantly stand as if in the shoes of the patient--which is the working definition of empathic attunement--and still be neutral? It seems to me that such "neutrality," like many of the ideas in comprehensive, authoritative metapsychologies like Kohut's, is an artifact of language, that is, that it may be named without really existing at all.
In regard to so-called analytic neutrality, which seems to be a form of Husserlian "pure psychology" in disguise, I find myself in close accord with Stolorow who said the following:
To expect that an analyst can be neutral or objective with respect to his patient's subjectivity, and thereby gaze upon the patient's experience with pure and presuppositionless eyes, is tantamount to requiring the analyst to eliminate his own psychological organization from the analytic system. This, in my view, is an impossible feat, especially when the most powerful expressions of the patient's subjectivity are directed toward the analyst himself--hardly a disinterested party. What the analyst can and should strive for in his self-reflective efforts is awareness of his own personal organizing principles--including those enshrined in his theories--and of how these principles are unconsciously shaping his analytic understandings and interpretations. (1994c, p. 147)
That one's own personal organizing principles are enshrined in one's theories means that theory becomes a preservative container for, and a justification for, the ego defenses that are a part of one's organizing principles. Ergo a vicious cycle: the better that a theory serves to justify ego defenses, the less the person holding it will perceive the theory as personal confession; the less it is perceived as personal confession--that is, the more the theory is universalized--the better it serves to justify those ego defenses, and so on.
Since complete awareness of one's own ego defenses is not possible, in other words, since no one is "fully analyzed," a psychological theory is very different from a scientific theory. A scientific theory may also serve some ego-defensive purposes, but primarily a good scientific theory is a systemic binding together of confirmable observations with a view towards verifiable explanations and testable predictions. A metapsychological theory is, willy-nilly, an enshrinement, an unconfirmable, almost religious cherishing of one's own psychology. Psychological theory, in other words, makes a pet of one's own inner nature. No wonder psychologists love their theories!
The Example Of Astrology
Popper (1968) drew sharp distinctions between scientific theories and psychological ones.
During the Summer of 1919 . . . I began to feel more and more dissatisfied with these theories [Marx, Freud, Adler] . . . and I began to feel dubious about their claim to scientific status. . . . Why are they so different from Newton's theory and especially from the theory of relativity? . . . It was not my doubting the truth of these theories which bothered me . . . what worried me was [that] theories, though posing as sciences, had in fact more in common with primitive myths than with science: that they resembled astrology more than astronomy. (p. 34)
Popper, of course, meant to derogate what he called "primitive myths," and "astrology," but one need not disparage them to see that myths and astrology are different in kind from science.
Myths and astrology are much studied by certain clinicians, particularly Jungian analysts and post-Jungian archetypal psychologists. Knowledge of mythology is said by such workers to help in doing psychotherapy because, as Jung taught, the fundamental themes of mythology also are the fundamental themes of human psychology, that is, the gods and goddess are images of the archetypes--the deepest patterns of psychic functioning--that manifest in various ways within each of us, or, as the archetypalists might say, the gods and goddesses are both immanent within us, and they transcend us. But it may also be that myths and astrology help in psychotherapy just because they are not science, just because they are not easily organized or comprehended rationally. In this sense, they are "anti-theories." Their very ambiguity fosters what Keats called "Negative Capability, that is, when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason" (letter to George and Thomas Keats, December 21, 1817, cited by Casement, 1995, p. 358). Such a negative capability, I imagine, is what Bion (1974) meant when he wrote,
Instead of trying to bring a brilliant, intelligent, knowledgeable light to bear on obscure problems, I suggest we bring to bear a diminution of the light--a penetrating beam of darkness; a reciprocal of the searchlight. (p. 37)
Unfortunately, many of those who use astrology and mythology in psychotherapy lose sight of those repositories of archetypal imagery as reciprocals of the searchlight, that is, as poetic ways to deliteralize the overwhelmingly literal weight of metapsychological theory with which all of us psychologists have been laden. Instead, it is wrongly imagined that astrology and mythology can function as powerful searchlights in and of themselves. And so, in lieu of a DSM-IV diagnosis, the therapist will regard the patient as, for example, having a Mars problem, or needing to survive the Saturn return, and that kind of diagnosis will be imagined to have some basis in fact. This is reminiscent of nothing so much as the phrenology of the mid-nineteenth century in which practitioners, after feeling the bumps on their patients' heads, referred to plaster busts, aggressively marketed by the Fowler brothers, Orson and Lorenzo, mapped out with the zones of the skull that corresponded to self-esteem, intuitive reasoning, will power, domestic propensities, criminal tendencies, etc.
Besides its obvious appeal to the kind of person whose personal organizing principles include a need to believe in kismet, and the desire to be able to predict it's vagaries, the dedicated astrologer/psychotherapist finds the "science" of astrology compelling for three main reasons, I think. First, because no two people can have exactly the same birth chart, astrology seems to account well for the observation that everyone is different. Second, astrology has unlimited explanatory power. Instead of having to say "I don't know," the astrologer always can go to a "deeper" level of analysis, including, recently, analysis of the effects of distant galaxies, novae, and black holes. Third, casting the birth chart seems to take therapy out of the realm of intersubjectivity. Instead of having to measure up to the completely fresh, living situation of two people, both of whom know nothing, sitting in a room together essentially naked, noticing thoughts, feelings, and images in the moment, the astrologer has a powerfully authoritative prop.
Here I am speaking of "serious" astrology, not the kind one reads on the same page as "Dear Abby" and the comics. The serious astrologer has a computer program to cast charts and to produce various levels of analysis. Corrections are made for changes in the calendar. All the trappings of science. Unlike the intuitive fortune teller who knows full well that the crystal ball is only a colorful pretext for her visceral insights, the serious astrologer believes that thousands of years of observations have yielded countless hard data supporting the theory that positions of the planets and stars influence human character and behavior. Further, the serious astrologer believes that by learning the techniques of interpretation implicit in astrological theory--a process requiring years of study, by the way--one can better understand the needs, desires, struggles and problems of an individual human being. In short, the serious astrologer/psychotherapist believes that astrology will help in understanding the emotional problems of patients, and in providing effective therapy.
Now I will concede that astrology, like mythology,
may provide a kind of poetic language that could be useful in communicating insights otherwise gained. And certainly I will concede that I am not in a position to decide once and for all if the theory that one may know anything about another person by looking at a diagram of planets holds any water or not, although personally I see little difference between phrenology and astrology. After all, phrenology also had its serious adherents who went into great "depth" about the zones of the head, and had waiting rooms filled with patients who presented themselves in all solemnity for consultations. But my intention here is not to debunk astrology. Rather, I seek to illustrate that personal needs to believe in one thing or another are the foundations of psychotherapeutic practice, and that even highly trained, serious, well-meaning people will claim effectiveness and veracity for their methods regardless of evidence to the contrary. In other words, I point to the astrologer/psychotherapist to demonstrate that a clinical metapsychology is much more a confession of personal organizing principles than an accurate, systematic, scientific comprehension of anything universally human.
Research into the veridicality of extra-sensory perception such as clairvoyance, clairaudience, or telepathy, and into such psychokineses such as telekinesis or the strange rappings, breaking of objects and explosive sounds that Jung (1965) reported to have occurred around him has always been problematical. Honest studies have not succeeded in reproducing such phenomena, and most scientists doubt that they exist. On the other hand, parapsychologists, who often have more of a cognitive commitment to belief in such phenomena--perhaps, for example, they have seen ghosts, or, like Jung, have personally experienced other seemingly supersensory events--will argue that the very materialistic attitude of the scientists creates the difficulty in reproducing the phenomena. In other words, it is argued that an attitude of belief is conducive to the occurrence of supersensory events, and that an attitude of skepticism
is discouraging to their manifestation. This is Catch-22 logic, of course, and makes impossible any scientific inquiry into the paranormal. However, such difficulties ought not to apply to an honest investigation of astrology.
If a computer program can cast a birth chart, and if certain interpretations and predictions traditionally are held to correspond to certain planetary configurations regardless of the state of mind of the astrologer, then astrology ought to be accessible to scientific testing. Indeed, many tests have been made, and most, if not all, indicate that astrology has no predictive validity whatsoever. For example, Dean (1987) conducted a study in which subjects who believed that they were receiving a straightforward astrological reading were each given a birth chart and a detailed written interpretation based upon widely accepted astrological construals of the particular planetary aspects on the chart. However, unbeknownst to the group of subjects, only half of the birth charts were real ones. The other half were prepared with the planets reversed as to meaning, so that the sun sign was correct, but the planets were in totally incorrect positions and aspects. For instance, if the real chart contained sun square Mars (which traditionally is considered to indicate impetuosity), then the reversed chart was prepared with sun trine Saturn (which is said to indicate cautiousness). Similarly, extroverted indications were substituted for introverted, forcefulness for self-effacement, ability for inability, etc. Then, the "astrologer," telling each subject that it was necessary to test the chart carefully before the interpretations could be accepted, asked the subject to rate on a three point scale (correct, uncertain, incorrect) each of several hundred items in the written interpretation. The subject was instructed to mark as correct only an interpretation that was correct both as to meaning and intensity. When finished, each subject was given the opportunity to change items on the rating scale in order to resolve any uncertainties or conflicts between one part of the interpretation or another. Most changed nothing. Finally, each item in the interpretation was scored as a "hit" only if the subject had marked it as correct, or a "miss" if the subject had marked it either as uncertain or incorrect. The results of this trial showed that subjects with reversed charts, ones whose astrological indications could not have been more wrong, rated them just as highly as did the subjects with authentic charts: approximately 96% correct.
It should be emphasized that the interpretations given in Dean's experiment were not the sort of widely applicable generalities often proffered by newspaper astrologers, or by sharpie psychics--"interpretations" on the order of "You worry about money," or "You are changeable"--but extremely detailed information that really would indicate profound characterological or temperamental differences. Nor can examiner influence be implicated as having skewed the study, since an earlier study based on similar procedures but conducted by mail, produced almost identical results (Dean and Mather, 1977, cited by Dean, 1987). Further, Dean's work is corroborated by numerous other studies. For example, German psychologist/astrologer Peter Niehenke (1984), gave 3,150 subjects a 500-item questionnaire designed to test astrological interpretations of planetary aspects. The results were completely negative; for example, subjects with as many as four Saturn aspects, which are said to indicate a weighty sense of responsibility and depressive tendencies, reportedly felt no more depressed or responsible than those with no Saturn aspects.
Niehenke, who had been using astrology in clinical work, was one of those rare practitioners who have the courage to test their own theoretical presuppositions not for comfort, but for validity. Of course, just living in the material world requires a lot of physical and social "reality testing" of all of us; therefore, we may assume that we apply strict standards of substantiation to our theoretical commitments too. However, a study by Glick and Snyder (1986, cited by Dean, 1987) suggests that most of us do not. It is well known that the choice of questions in a study strongly influences the outcome. If, for example, an astrological chart indicates that a person is extroverted, and one wishes to test that finding, one will ask questions about behavior. The problem is that introverted people occasionally do extroverted things, and vice versa, so that asking questions about extroverted activities ("Do you go to parties?") will tend to confirm extroversion, and asking questions about introverted activities ("Do you read books") will tend to confirm introversion. With that in mind, the researchers prepared a list of 26 questions which secretly they had divided as slanted towards confirmation of extroversion, neutral in regard to extroversion, or slanted towards disconfirmation of extroversion. Next a group composed of astrology skeptics and astrology believers were asked to test the validity of a birth chart interpretation which indicated that the subject was highly extroverted. From the list of 26 questions, each participant was asked to choose 12 with which to test the subject, who, as a confederate of the researchers, had been coached to answer the questions in accordance with their bias. According to Dean, both believers and skeptics chose questions that would confirm their own already preexisting persuasions, that is, the skeptics chose disconfirmatory questions, and the believers confirmatory ones. But that was not all. In the case of the skeptics, the more confirmatory questions they asked--which, since the confederate played along, increased the amount of confirmation they received--the more highly they rated the accuracy of the astrological prediction of extroversion. But in the case of the believers, there was no such correlation. All of them rated the astrological interpretation either as "accurate," or "mostly accurate" regardless of the number of confirmatory questions they posed. In other words, for the believers, the information they received made no difference in their evaluation of the validity of astrology. Certainly this is a perfect illustration of premature cognitive commitment, hardly different from the houseflies who could not escape from the jar even after the glass cover was removed.
According to Dean (1987), belief in astrology or similar systems of prediction such as tarot, numerology, and palmistry, all of which have been tested and found to produce interpretations no better than at the chance level, is not gullibility, but a misuse of human inference. In other words, since predictions, whatever their basis, sometimes are correct, one easily infers that the system producing them must have some predictive power. Such faulty inferences are the beginnings of faulty premature cognitive commitments. Unfortunately, premature cognitive commitment often feels good. It relieves the tensions inherent in having to live with doubts and uncertainties, and, as in the case of an astrologer who earns a living giving readings, it may help economically. Why should the astrologer, against all incentives, keep questioning the system? After all, it works . . . all the way to the bank. As Dean expressed this tendency,
Astrologers take every advantage of their inferential deficiencies. To them everything is a correspondence and nothing is a coincidence . . . . Thus a Sagittarian cavalry officer will be seen as confirming astrology (the centaur symbol of Sagittarius, is half-man, half-horse) even though the occurrence is at chance level and everything else in his chart says he should be a banker. (pp. 264-265)
The disconfirmatory evidence that he should be a banker simply will be discarded.
Clearly it is not only astrologers, or palm readers who take advantage of inferential deficiencies. Consider, for example the classical Freudian analyst. Years of training and a lucrative practice have given this person every reason to maintain a cognitive commitment to the drive-conflict line. Every now and then the analyst really does see a patient whose central issues seem to implicate the oedipal complex. This confirms the Freudian inferences. As for the others: they are "resisting the transference," are "unwilling to be helped," or prove not to be "good candidates for analysis."
Does A Psychotherapist Need Theory?
Having seen some of the adverse side of metapsychological theory, it seems all the more germane to ask: "Why then must a psychotherapist bring any psychological theory at all into the consulting room? Why carry such a burden?" Of course, being entirely without a metapsychology may be impossible. Even having a consulting room at all, and arranging to sit there with a patient, at least implicates the theory that such an approach will be helpful or useful in some way, and probably entails a methodology of procedures, limits, and boundaries as well. But this is stating the negative: we have theories because we cannot not have them. What I wish to address here is the possible utility of theory. Why, for example, beyond his need to make a personal confession, would Kohut spend years developing a theory of the self? Of what use is such a theory?
Perhaps it is of no use at all. That seems to be the argument of Hillman (1975), who said that psyche, being, as both the object of psychology and its subject, a sui generis, needs not theories, but ideas, and lots of them. Hence the fierce attack by Hillman and other archetypalists on the various modes of psychotherapy based on developmental metapsychologies like Kohut's, or
the cult of the inner child (Bradshaw) . . . the goodness and creativity of innocence (Alice Miller) . . . "empirically" based theories of the infantile psyche (Melanie Klein, Fordham) . . . the birth experience (Grof) . . . the dogma that regression to childhood is necessary for therapeutic progress. . . . (Hillman, 1992, p. 128)
Like Freudian theory, such metapsychologies implicate the developmental presumption that the etiology of adult emotional difficulty lies in early disturbances to the proper formation of personality. Although they differ in how treatment should be conducted, each presents itself as a theoretical basis for insight into emotional disabilities that preclude achieving a happy and fulfilling modus vivendi. Such disabilities are seen as the sequelae of early disturbances to personality development, and each metapsychology implies or explicitly suggests therapeutic methodologies for healing the early wounds that lead to such disabilities. In contrast, archetypal psychology prefers not to assume a happy and fulfilling life as the necessary telos of the human career. Hillman (1975) resisted seeing symptoms as indications of failures in development. Instead, he recast symptoms as part of the primary data for "soul-making," a term he borrowed from Keats. From that perspective, the term "depth psychology" loses its meaning as a specific branch of psychology, demarcated by theories of personality development and therapies for treating the eventualities of flawed development, or even, as for the Jungians, as an approach towards a transcendental connection to a larger Self. Instead, for the archetypal psychologist, depth psychology denotes the process of soul-making through soul-searching, that is, through attempts to perceive the intricacies of life, so that everyday occurrences deepen into soulful experiences. In that view, therapy is not confined to the consulting room; it is a process which goes on continually throughout a life so long as sufficient attention is paid to the profundities and particularities of ordinary events. Thus arises Hillman's abhorrence of developmental psychology which sees therapy as directed towards healing earlier wounds, and his desire to emphasize instead,
such adult complexities as citizenship, language, beauty, sexual imagination friendship, humor, philosophical reflection, conflict and war, [the] polytheistic ambiguities [that] constitute the essence of human life and thus of therapy. (1992, p. 129)
In that conception, it is held not to be important, nor even possible, that a patient's experience be understood by means of theories, but that the ideas and fantasies of both the patient and the therapist be seen, and then perceived as archetypal, mythic patterns--that is, as larger than either the patient or the therapist--for, in that process of seeing and perceiving, soul is made. According to Hillman, the questions "how?" and "why?"--questions at the heart of scientific theorizing--are inappropriate to psychotherapeutic discourse. In his view, the important therapeutic questions are "who?" and especially "what?":
"What?" proceeds straight into an event. The search for "whatness" or quiddity, the interior identity of an event, its essence, takes one into depth. It is a question from the soul of the questioner that quests for the soul of the happening. "What" stays right with the matter, asking it to state itself again, to repeat itself in other terms, to re-present itself by means of other images. . . .
Why takes one toward explanations or purposes, how takes one toward a set of conditions, or causes, or solutions, or applications. . . . away from what is at hand, away from what is present and actually taking place. (1975, p. 138)
Now Hillman's "what?" is not far from the Greek word qewria, the original source of our word "theory," which meant "looking around oneself in the world" or "contemplation." Consequently, Hillman's reproach of metapsychological theorizing appears to center upon its pretensions towards scientific theorizing, which, aiming at explanation and prediction--so that, for example, one speaks of powerful theories--really does have a right to ask "why?" From that prospect, perhaps psychological theorizing, which is, it seems to me, an inevitable concomitant of self-reflexive human awareness, needs to be more like "theory" in its qewria connotation, which would signify more a phenomenological activity than an explanatory or predictive one.
Of course Hillman, who said: "My books are like war games; I'm attacking and destroying as many enemies as I can in each book" (1996, December), took a few potshots at Husserlian phenomenology too. Recall his statement that, "phenomenology stops short in its examination of consciousness, failing to realize that the essence of consciousness is fantasy images" (supra). In Hillman's archetypal psychology, qewria is applied to the irrational, imaginal, and especially to the psychopathological side of life. From that outlook, psychopathology is neither diagnosed nor categorized according to some system of nosology, in which a set of symptoms indicates a known disease, "depression," for instance, which then demands treatment with known modalities, Prozac, for example, or cognitive therapy. Nor is psychopathology explained by reference to its etiology. Instead, each "psychopathology" is contemplated (qewria) as a phenomenon with its own irrational meanings, and its own imaginal actualities asking to be discovered. "This," said Hillman, "is what depth psychology has always insisted upon: . . . Look at the daylight world from the night side, from fantasy and its archai" (1975, p. 139). As I understand Hillman's position, he objects to the questions "how?" and "why?" precisely because they do not take us to the night side; they are too much about diagnosis and etiology, and not enough about imagination.
But metapsychological theory, in my experience, does more than just ask "how" and "why," albeit those question do sometimes usefully arise. Theorizing provides a field within which imaginal exploration--including criticism like Hillman's--may take place. Without the limits of such a field, investigative inquiry might have no orientation at all. As architecture critic Robert Campbell (1988) expressed this,
Creativity without constraints is like moving chess pieces around on your living room floor. You might come up with a lot of moves, but in the absence of the chessboard, they wouldn't be anything you could possibly call creative. (cited in Schneider, 1990, p. 191)
In that sense, psychological theory provides the chessboard--the framework--on which movements within the "hermeneutic circle" (Dilthey, 1926/1961) may take place. In Dilthey's hermeneutics, the theories of an interpretative activity--history, art, religion, psychology--are different in kind from the theories of natural science. In a natural science like mathematics or physics, all the axioms and all their lawful deductions already exist, archetypally complete. The value of ¬¼ is still 3.1416 whether anyone notices it or not. But Dilthey's "cultural sciences" depend upon lived experience, which is not archetypally complete. The meaning of lived experience transubstantiates continuously as more experience, moment by moment, becomes part of the background upon which the present is based. Consequently, lived experience, although it may recapitulate certain archetypes--fatherhood, for example, or the wounded healer--is not only archetypal, but also idiopathic. We may know things about human life in general, but nothing is known about an individual life until it is lived. The knowing is in the process, that is, the knowing is hermeneutic knowing. Clearly, the psychoanalyst must draw upon his or her own cultural background, and conscious awareness in order to understand the patient, but the theory to which the analyst has been exposed, willy-nilly, is part of that background. As such, the theory is subject to constant modification and interpretation, much of it taking place outside of conscious awareness, within successive hermeneutic cycles.
As in the writing of a novel whose characters have taken on a life of their own, and so begin to resist domination by the conscious will of their author, the space demarcated by theory constantly threatens to exceed its author's purview and control. Always one feels that there is some understanding that lies just beyond the horizon of intelligibility so that the theory is alive with potential. It is a potential space. The need to have such potential spaces as frameworks for hermeneutics may be seen in the play of quite young children who create elaborate structures of rules for their games, and then make modifying the rules not just part of the game, but the best part of it.
The mother-infant observations of Winnicott (1971) suggest that the adult need for theory as hermeneutic framework is an extension of a tendency that is present at birth (hence, archetypal):
From the beginning the baby has maximally intense experiences in the potential space between the subjective object and the object objectively perceived, between me-extensions and the not-me. This potential space is at the interplay between there being nothing but me and there being objects and phenomena outside omnipotent control. . . . The potential space happens only in relation to a feeling of confidence on the part of the baby, that is, confidence related to the dependability of the mother-figure . . . confidence being the evidence of dependability that is becoming introjected. (p. 100)
Winnicott's notion of the child's introjection of the dependability of the mother figure sounds a lot like Kohut's transmuting internalization of selfobject functions; however, here the point of greatest interest is not Kohut's relation to Winnicott, but the possible utility of theory. Theory is that which contains the potential space for organized inquiry. With confidence in a theory, one can play in the potential space; if one loses confidence in the theory, the potential space collapses, and no further play is possible until a new potential space can be created. When I say "confidence," I do not mean confidence that the theory is "correct," but confidence that the theory will support further playful exploration within a matrix that concerns oneself, but which is not altogether about oneself. To discard theory per se entirely, even if that could be done, would be to foreclose even the possibility of that kind of play--Winnicott's "interplay"-- and thus to foreclose the succession of hermeneutic circumambulations that may lead to enhanced awareness. As experience deepens, theory also deepens--after all, one's theories are not fixed quantities standing outside of oneself like books on a shelf. One's theories include one's personal discernment of what they address, what they mean, what is at stake in adopting such theories, along with one's discernment of everything else in one's world, all those various discernments intertwined, interdependent, and evolving together.
Further, if the gods are to appear and be served in therapeutic work, as the archetypal psychologists say they must if therapy is to be more than simply a humanistic enterprise, the work requires, in my view, a reliable therapeutic container. Visitations by the gods without the security of such a strong alembic are often simply too much to bear, which may be one reason--perhaps the chief reason--for the patient's seeking therapy in the first place. The firmness of therapeutic vessel depends largely upon the interpersonal relationship between therapist and patient, and particularly upon the patient's confidence that the therapist can hold whatever the patient brings. This is partly a function of the temperament and personal development of the therapist, but in some measure the therapist's ability to hold the patient's material relies upon a working technique derived from some kind of theoretical approach. Thus theory supports the therapist in standing up to the archetypal material that is constellated in the process of therapy. In my experience, the better the container, the more is constellated, or, at least, the better the container, the more of what is constellated will be seen and digested by both patient and therapist. As Corbett (1996) put this, "Anyone who works with a human being is of necessity working clinically within a particular model of the therapeutic relationship; only the artist or philosopher works purely symbolically" (p. 14).
Further, even if one could work purely symbolically, or at least largely symbolically, there are many patients who are not good candidates for such an approach. Speaking personally, I am thinking now of my work with survivors of incest and other severe emotional or physical abuse in childhood. To begin therapy by considering the rape of a six year old by her father, for instance, as fiction or image is, in my view, counterproductive at best. The therapeutic groundwork in a case like that usually is quite the opposite. Patient and therapist must admit that the unthinkable really happened, and that the abuse has interfered with the fullest emotional development of the patient, usually eventuating in an impaired sense of self, and in a generally predictable series of relationship problems such as difficulties in establishing appropriate personal boundaries with spouses or lovers. And that work of admitting the unthinkable is not a one-time event; it continues in various forms throughout the therapy. With severe sexual abuse in the patient's background, the therapeutic alliance itself often is subject to cyclical reenactments of the dramas of rescue, inequality, violation, and betrayal. Further, the patient may feel compelled to reenact the abuse, leading to anxiety about trusting the therapist: perhaps the desire for reenactment has been projected onto the therapist, or perhaps there is a transference in which the therapist is seen as the abuser. Accustomed to suffering habitual difficulties in maintaining proper boundaries, the patient may fail to comprehend that this is not difficult for the therapist. Sadly, the patient may already have been treated badly by a previous therapist since some proportion of the psychotherapeutic community is prone to abusing patients, and survivors of incest or other severe abuse are particularly vulnerable to revictimization. In particularly difficult cases, the patient may be struggling with feelings of depersonalization, and alienation from self which often are not tolerable passages in the process of individuation or soul making, but intolerable terrors that need to be managed precisely by literalizing the relationship between therapist and patient, that is by emphasizing the importance, and solidity of the personal encounter, certainly not by deliteralizing it, or pointing out that all is fantasy anyway. Later, if a nourishing relationship can be established, the patient may be able to tolerate, and benefit from imaginal work, but, in my view, much worthwhile and effective therapy may be accomplished without ever pushing the metaphysical envelope or depersonalizing the therapeutic encounter. In this kind of work, which is personally challenging for the therapist, and even at times fearsome, knowledge of theories which emphasize the value of a personalistic therapeutic matrix, and which explore the expected vicissitudes of work within that matrix--self psychology, Winnicott, object relations, et. al.--is good to have.
From that perspective, theory per se is not the problem, but theory taken literally, that is, theory not as a framework for hermeneutic discernment, or as part of the matrix for a therapeutic interpersonal relationship, but theory hardened into a fixed system of tenets. As Hillman phrased this:
Perhaps there can be no discipline of therapeutic psychology, only an activity of psychotherapy. Perhaps therapeutic psychology is self-defeating; once insights become "psychology," serving as an interpretative tool, a reliably steady mirror throwing light on all events from the same angle--then the particularity, multiplicity, and spontaneity of the soul's reflections become codified. An articulated, all-worked-out psychology is better spoken of as a theology or a philosophy or a movement, and the activity performed in its name and called "therapy" (Freudian, Jungian, Rogerian, Reichean) is more truly indoctrination or conversion. (Hillman, 1975, p. 145)
Clearly, this refers to the kind of religious zeal which Jung and Freud, inspired in their followers, perhaps even intentionally. And obviously, the therapy provided by an indoctrinated therapist will be a procrustean bed for the patient, deforming the patient's experience to make it fit the dogma. However, I am not so ready as Hillman to jettison altogether working within a discipline of therapeutic psychology, including, for example, such specifics as the various kinds of transferences that may emerge, what their emergence may signify, and how the therapist might go about understanding, and interpreting them in useful ways. In fact, to what Hillman calls an "articulated psychology" I see no alternative that would permit the transmission of complex metapsychological ideas from one person to another, enabling the ideas of that first person to become part of the potential space within which the ideas of the next person can take shape, develop, and grow. Without such transmission, it seems to me that psychologists would be forced to keep reinventing the wheel.
It may be that continually reinventing the wheel is really what Hillman has in mind, for then fantasies of progress and development, such as Jung's individuation, or Kohut's transmuting internalization of compensatory structures, would have to be seen as unrealistically heroic, and might give way to simpler aims. Thus "therapy" would not accomplish anything; it would be a style of life that honored woundedness, or at least simply allowed it, instead of trying to cure it. In fact, this seems close to the central argument of archetypal psychology as I understand it: pathology is not to be cured or even necessarily treated, but used in the service of soul making simply by noticing it in detail, and seeing where it leads. Thus, the symbols of transformation, which for Jung were the baseline data of the psyche, have given way to psychopathologies as manifestations of the gods, which are the baseline data of the archetypal psychotherapist.
Given Hillman's own intimate knowledge of Jungian orthodoxy--he was Director of Studies at the Jung Institute in Zurich--no wonder his uneasiness about insights calcifying into a "reliably steady mirror." Classical Jungian psychology has become boring. Libraries at Jungian institutes contain dictionaries of symbols, cataloging the "meanings" to be ascribed to various characters and figures, as if some superhuman linguist had already deciphered, for once and for all, the mother tongue of dreams and fantasies. But the crux of the problem, it seems to me, lies not in the organization and transmission in articulated form of ideas--theory--but in the uncritical reception of those ideas. A thinker as powerful as Freud, or Jung (or Hillman) perforce must make weaker-minded converts, whether or no. It was inevitable that schools of Freudian, Jungian, (and Hillmanian) psychology would arise, and that certain lesser thinkers would find within them a not a stimulus to further hermeneutics, but instead a refuge from the demands of an evolving personal selfhood with all of its inescapable attendant doubts, fears, and uncertainties. The processes of indoctrination and religious conversion always have existed, and always will. They are, in that sense, archetypal. But in Hillman's "war games"--the image arises of an adolescent boy in a video arcade laughing fiendishly as he vaporizes enemy spacecraft--I see, along with the beauty of fresh insights and fierce rhetorical challenges to the status quo, some proclivities towards throwing the baby out with the bath water. And looking at those tendencies from the "night side" of depth psychology, as Hillman himself recommended, I wonder if they have to do with an earlier Jungian indoctrination and conversion of his own.
Further, those who follow Hillman in his critique of psychological theories such as Kohut's or Fordham's, pointing, with some justification in my opinion, to the formulaic, and self-confirming nature of such developmental psychologies, fail to notice that, inevitably, Hillman, like all of us, has developmental biases of his own. His unceasing disparagement of psychotherapies that attempt to heal personal "inner" injuries (see Hillman, and Ventura, 1992), combined with his persistent promotion of regarding the "self" not foremost as an individual, but as a citizen, constitute an unmistakably strong advocacy of a preferred way of being. Any such advocacy, obviously, is filled with its own developmental notions, equally self-confirming as Kohut's or Fordham's. My intention here is not to take issue with Hillman's preferences, for they are a matter of opinion, and de gustibus non est disputandum. I simply point out that his notions of what human life should be about (citizenship, soul-making) also constitute a kind of theory--as much as Fordham's or Kohut's--and need to be recognized as such.
To Paul Tolpin, analysand and early colleague of Kohut, I put this question: "Must an analyst have a theory?" Here is part of his reply:
We have theories whether we acknowledge them or not. Freud's theories have changed permanently the way we understand people from the time he began to write about them. One must have a theory. It can be a rather general theory. It need not be clearly stated and written out. But we all have theories about what the human mind is like, and how as human beings we develop psychologically, and how we function psychologically, and we use those theories. These can vary from the loosest theories to the strictest, most detailed ones, but we must have something to work from. You cannot work with a patient without having some kind of theory. . . . My theory is that there must be available responsiveness from the caretaking adults for psychological health to develop. (personal communication, September 9, 1997)
Deliteralizing Imaginal Psychology
Tolpin said it well. We all have theories about how we function psychologically. The archetypal psychologists and other foes of developmental perspectives may disagree with Tolpin's theory that psychological health depends upon receiving certain developmental "nutrients" from caretakers. After all, theory evolves from the processes of observation and interpretation, and, as we have seen, those activities constitute a circle in which interpretations influence observations which then influence the next interpretations, ad infinitum. But Tolpin, as I understood his statement, was not claiming facticity for his particular theory. He was merely opining that psychotherapy cannot be conducted without some kind of theory to support the personal work required of the therapist. This requirement for some sort of suppositional framework for the actual practice of psychotherapy helps to explain why Hillman, although has labored rhetorically to keep his ideas from ossifying into a "psychology," has not, in my view, been entirely successful. Twenty-something years after the publication of Revisioning Psychology (1975), archetypal psychology has hardened into what Hillman himself called "a stiff-necked pride" that clings to the tenets that one must "stick to the image" and that "all is fantasy" (supra). While one is clinging to tenets, regardless of what they may be, the idea that all is fantasy really will not be seen as fantasy. One may say that it is fantasy, but at the same time, it becomes a pet fantasy, a fantasy without which one cannot do.
A pet fantasy is not very different from a pet theory. Ultimately, it blinds. What had been insight becomes habit. Once one postulates that the "use of the world" is soul-making, one already has begun to theorize that the world has a use, which, if taken literally, is not metaphor, but metaphysics. And, it is a metaphysics that implies a project: making "soul" from experience. This may sound good, but, in my experience, infatuation with that project often detracts from an open appreciation of life itself, since even life (undeniable) is imagined to exist in the service of soul (speculative). When I say that "soul" is speculative, I do not mean "soul" in its connotation of one's "psychological constitution," as Hillman (1975, p. xii) employed that word. Nor do I mean to call into question the existence of soul in Hillman's sense of soul as "a perspective rather than a substance, a viewpoint towards things rather than the things themselves" (p. x). Manifestly, each of us has soul in those senses. When I say that life is undeniable, but "soul" is speculative, I refer to those conjectural extensions of the word "soul" beyond its meaning of psychological constitution, or perspective, as in phrases like "the soul of the world." Does the world have a psychological constitution in the same sense that a human being has one? Does the world have a perspective? I would say not. My dog seems to have a psychological constitution, and perhaps also a perspective, so I would say she has a soul, but perhaps the Pope would disagree, declaring that scripture allows souls only to humans, not animals. As an item of personal confession, I see humans as a variety of animal, and so do not make such an unambiguous distinction between myself and my dog, but perhaps that attitude says more about me than about the question of soul. One may feel powerful intimations of containment within a "soul" external to the personal psyche, and one may feel, as I often do while pushing the wheelbarrow through my garden, that one's efforts and struggles somehow serve that soul. One has a right to believe in the existence of that kind of soul (essentially a religious idea), and to believe that "making soul," or "serving soul" is the point of living at all, but such a beliefs are, as I said, no longer metaphors but metaphysics.
Moreover, the stiff-necked tenet of archetypal psychology that "all is fantasy" is nothing new. It has been said for centuries, but simply never, or at least rarely, lived. "All is fantasy" is found in Advaita Vedanta, first mentioned in Gaudapada's Karikas on the Mandukya Upanishad (early 7th century), and expanded upon by Shankara (early 8th century). In Vedantic metaphysics there is only one reality, called Brahman or Atman, which is uncaused, eternal, and unchanging. The individual ego is illusion, and its perceptions, both apparently external (sensory), and apparently internal (thoughts, images), are all fantasies. In that view, it is only through ignorance, or maya that one fantasizes a world filled with a multiplicity of objects, and a "mind" filled with a diversity of images and ideas. Thus, the "world" is literally dreamt up endlessly, and only the continuation of maya allows the dream to go on. Analogously, in 20th century biophysics, it is believed that body, space and time--thus, "self"--are merely interpretative constructions of sensory experience. Since, sensory experience itself is only an epiphenomenon of the impingement of certain narrow potions of various bands of energy upon the sensory apparatus, and since a different creature with a different sensory apparatus--a butterfly, for example, which sees ultra-violet vibrations and higher--would sense things differently, human perception of "reality" is, at most, only a version. This is close to Vedanta, albeit expressed in more positivistic terms. The work of neurologist Oliver Sacks (1995), who described the bizarre perceptual worlds of persons with various brain lesions and tumors, illustrates well that any perception is only a version, that is, a rendering. However, as much as the fantastic nature of "reality" is known--in the Upanishads, by biophysicists, or by archetypal psychologists--it is not lived. Perhaps, as Hillman said, "to believe in a fantasy is delusion; to believe in an image, idolatry" (supra), but that is exactly what all of us do. Within the collective fantasy of individual embodied existence in a material world, people go on pursuing their pleasures, seeking to avoid their pains, making endless distinctions between one thing and another, bearing children and raising them, working on projects, and "attacking and destroying" enemies. Thus, the waking dream continues.
Hillman's exhortations that psychology move its center of focus from the "self" to the "soul" provide a worthwhile corrective to the egocentricity of the post-Freudians and the post-Jungians. His suggestion that case history be heard not as biography but as fiction is, in my view, an important and liberating approach to work with some, albeit certainly not all, patients. However, notwithstanding the vigor of his efforts to move psychology from the literal to the metaphorical, his own ideas are being taken literally. Already there has arisen a cadre of scholars and therapists who seem to believe that "soul" literally is "made" by taking one approach to life instead of another. For many of these, the notions that personality develops through experience, and that early experiences especially are crucial to that development--ideas that, from my perspective, seem powerfully self-evident--are anathema. In my opinion, discarding wholesale the valuable ideas of developmental psychology makes almost certain that some patients' important needs will be missed. After all, who is to say that developmental needs, expressed in the transference ¬à la Kohut, are not also expressions of soul, not also manifestations of the gods, not also archetypal? In my experience, based upon the peculiar strength and feeling tone with which such transferences often make themselves known, the human needs to idealize and to be mirrored are archetypal. Why are they not honored as such along with all the other archetypes? The literal adherents of archetypal psychology do not want to hear hypotheses about the development of personality, or the (archetypal) lacunae in self-structure, only about which god is in charge from moment to moment, as if there really were gods in fact. How can that literalization be dissolved?
Others who advocate moving the focus of psychology from the self to the soul imagine the soul of the world as Gaia. In that view, the earth "herself" is intelligent, and benign. Most, if not all, of the world's problems are imputed to centuries of a masculine abuse of the life principle. But that view of a holistic Mother Earth leaves out the intimidating aspects of living in a soft, fleshy body on a wild planet, and it glosses over the horrifying aspects of "mother," as Freud also tried to do in his way. The life principle also is a death principle. Nature is not all benign, but "red in tooth and claw," as Tennyson said. The unspoiled wilderness, to which the Gaia-romantics want to return, inspired in our forebears less an appreciation for the beauty of nature than an awestruck terror of her savagery which sometimes made the flesh creep, made the teeth chatter, or curdled the blood. Formerly that mortal fear found partial expression in projects dedicated to creating relatively safe spaces: clearing, cultivating, constructing. Now the same archetypal dread is being pushed into the shadows, unwittingly forced into unconsciousness by a self-justifying political correctness that refuses to honor, or even to notice, it. The universal human desires for some small insulation from the primitive dread of darkness, and some scant protection from the ultimate archetypal fear--the fear of ceasing to be at all--are recast by eco-psychologists as "rape of the planet." How can that one-sided literalization be dissolved?
Jung had a dream in which he encountered a yogi who sat facing him in deep meditation. After looking more closely, Jung realized that the yogi had his face, and, upon that realization, he awoke, profoundly frightened, thinking: "ˆîAha, so he is the one who is meditating me. He has a dream, and I am it.' I knew when he awakened, I would no longer be" (1965, p. 323). Jung's exegesis proposed that the dream intended to reverse the "relationship between ego-consciousness and the unconscious, and to represent the unconscious as the generator of the empirical personality" (p. 324). Thus, according to Jung, the dream intended to put the locus of "reality" in the unconscious.
Hillman's (1972) work, it seems to me, sought to take Jung's dream one step further. In Hillman's view, if I correctly understand it, the unconscious does not properly exist; the phrase "the unconscious" is but a hypostatization of the ongoing process of unawareness of the fantastical nature of all experience. In other words, in Hillman's view, Freud and Jung, created a noun form (the unconscious) from what really should be understood as a verb form (being unconscious). From that vantage, the dreams one has at night, are not different in kind from waking dreams, except that it is easier to notice nighttime dreams as dreams, since while one sleeps, the literalizing force of habitual ego-consciousness sleeps also.
For Hillman, "Our archetypal fictions keep their mythopoeic, their truly fictional, character beyond what we do or say about them. We can never be certain whether we imagine them, or they imagine us" (1972, p. 151). That last sentence is reminiscent of the fantasies Jung had as a child when he would play
an imaginary game that went something like this: "I am sitting on top of this stone and it is underneath." But the stone also could say "I" and think: "I am lying here on this slope and he is sitting on top of me." The question then arose "Am I the one who is sitting on the stone, or am I the stone on which he is sitting? (1965, p. 20)
But there appears to be a subtle difference in the two points of view. For Jung, the answer to that question seemed vitally important, but "remained totally unclear" (p. 20), whereas for Hillman, there is no answer (or there are countless answers). In Hillman's conception, to offer a definitive answer would be to literalize the fiction that someone is sitting on someone else, and thus to destroy the vitality of the paradoxical uncertainty inherent in "whether we imagine them, or they imagine us." In considering the gods, it is not just that one is uncertain as to whether they imagine us or we imagine them, but one must remain uncertain also as to the possible ontological value of the entire line of speculation about who imagines whom. To assign such conjectures any particular value whatsoever beyond their possible satisfaction of the human desire to play (homo ludens), that is, to fantasize, and thus to express one's soul, is immediately to wax scientific, that is to literalize this way of seeing as having heuristic value above and beyond, or better than, some other fantasy, the fantasy of Buddhist compassion towards the stone for example, or the fantasy of existential psychotherapy in which one might be asked not to wonder who is dreaming whom, but simply to appreciate the stone's stoniness. Thus, if Hillman's archetypal psychology were properly regarded as a fiction itself, and, more specifically, as a fiction that serves to express the soul needs--the "psychological constitution," as Hillman himself put it (supra)--of its creator as his personal confession, the tendency to literalize it into a "better mousetrap," that literally can "make soul," or "save the planet," would be recognized too, and cut off at the root.
PSYCHOTHERAPY AS PERSONAL CONFESSION
Faith, Religion, and Numinosity
As we saw in Chapter I, Jung noticed that for Freud "sexuality was a sort of numinosum" (supra). Jung had adopted the word "numinous" from Rudolf Otto's (1958) book The Idea of the Holy, which, according to Corbett (1996),
had a major influence on Jung's thought. According to Otto, the essence of holiness, or religious experience, is a specific quality which remains inexpressible and "eludes apprehension in terms of concepts." To convey its uniqueness he coined the term "numinous" from the Latin numen, meaning a god, cognate with the verb nuere, to nod or beckon, indicating divine approval. . . . For [Otto], the presence of the numinous is . . . felt to be objective and outside the self.
The numinous grips or stirs the soul with a particular affective state, which Otto describes as a feeling of the "mysterium tremendum". . . .
It has an uncanny quality which, Otto suggests, gives rise to its objectification within myth and folklore as the presence of demons or gods. (pp. 11-12)
Jung concluded that Freud experienced sexuality numinously after observing, during their first meeting, that when Freud spoke of sexuality, "a strange, deeply moved expression came over his face" (Jung, 1965, p. 150). According to Jung, when they next spoke three years later,
Freud said to me, "My dear Jung,
promise me never to abandon the sexual theory. . . . we must make a dogma of
it, an unshakable bulwark." He said that
to me with great emotion, in the tone of a father saying, "And promise me this one thing, my dear son: that you will go to church every Sunday." . . . it was the words "bulwark" and "dogma" that alarmed me; for a dogma, that is to say, an undisputable confession of faith, is set up only when the aim is to suppress doubts once and for all. But that no longer has anything to do with scientific judgment; only with a personal power drive.
This was the thing that struck at the heart of our friendship. I knew that I would never be able to accept such an attitude. (p. 150, emphasis mine)
Now here is a contradiction. If the numinous is "felt to be objective and outside the self," then how is it that a confession of faith in a numinously felt experience--the sexual drive in Freud's case--was construed as a drive to personal power by Jung? Why was not such a manifestation of awestruck reverence as a strange, deeply moved expression coming over Freud's face, as well as Freud'sundisputable confession of faith, seen by Jung not as evidence of a desire for personal power, but as what it likely was, a surrendering of personal power in the face of Freud's overwhelming idiopathic experience of the sexual mysterium tremendum?
Jung had great ambitions for power and fame himself, which he routinely denied, so one might conjecture that accusing Freud of abandoning scientific judgment in a thrust for personal power was a projection by Jung of his own shadow. That would be a conventional Jungian interpretation, but it misses the mark I think. Suppose Freud had been speaking not of sex, but of God, or of the gods, or of mana, or daimon when the "deeply moved expression" had come over his face. And suppose further that he had then said to Jung, "Promise me never to abandon faith in God (or the gods, or mana, or daimon) as the healing principle in psychotherapy. We must make a dogma of it." Would Jung have called that a drive towards personal power? I think not. Under those circumstances, I imagine Jung determining that Freud was expressing, albeit zealously, the convictions born of an authentic religious experience, which would constitute not a drive towards power, but towards healing. After all Jung himself confessed his own conviction that, "the approach to the numinous is the real therapy and inasmuch as you attain to numinous experiences you are released from the curse of pathology" (1973, p. 377).
Why then was Jung so put off by Freud's attitude of religious awe towards sexuality? Despite his bourgeois background, Jung was certainly no prude. He carried on a variety of sexual affairs throughout his life, at times several affairs simultaneously, and even promoted polygamy to his followers as necessary for individuation (Noll, 1997). So if it was not priggishness that stimulated Jung to judge Freud so harshly, nor simply the projection of his own shadowy ambitions, what was it? I submit that Jung misunderstood Otto's idea of numinosity; he construed it far too narrowly. Otto's notion implies that numinosity can inhere in any experience that "grips or stirs the soul with a particular affective state." Thus, for one person entering a cathedral may be numinous, while for another, entering a vagina. For Jung, who wanted the "Self" to be a transcendental concept, that is, not simply an archetype, but the central archetype (1921/1971), sexuality would have seemed far too mundane to provoke any intuition of the mysterium tremendum. Not only was sex, by Jung's lights, outside the regions of possible numinosity, but Jung went so far as to claim that Freud's entire theory dealt with nothing important to Jung at all. "My own world," Jung wrote, "had scarcely anything to do with Freud's. My whole being was seeking for something still unknown which might confer meaning upon the banality of life" (1965, p. 165). That something still unknown--in other words, intimations of the numinous--Jung certainly could not find in sexuality which he perceived as both dirty and pedestrian:
To me it was a profound disappointment that all the efforts of the probing mind had apparently succeeded in finding nothing more in the depths of the psyche than the all too familiar and "all-too-human" limitations. I had grown up in the country, among peasants, and what I was unable to learn in the stables I found out from the Rabelaisian wit and the untrammeled fantasies of our peasant folklore. Incest and perversions were no remarkable novelties to me, and did not call for any special explanation. . . . they formed part of the black lees that spoiled the taste of life by showing me only too plainly the ugliness and meaninglessness of human existence. That cabbages thrive in dung was something I had always taken for granted. In all honesty I could discover no helpful insight in such knowledge. "It's just that all of those people are city folks who know nothing about nature and the human stable," I thought, sick and tired of these ugly matters. (p. 166, emphasis mine)
Now this is a remarkable statement in several ways. In the first place, when one declares being "sick and tired" of "ugly matters," a Jungian ear, hearing that vehemence, would infer that such an attitude compensates for another, unconscious attitude which finds those same matters fascinating and stimulating. That Jungian apothegm, which holds that conscious and unconscious attitudes countervail, perhaps sheds some light on the contradiction apparent in Jung's first saying that incest did not call for any special explanation, and then later devoting hundreds of pages to writing about incest, even making the theme of incestuous relations a centerpiece of his theory of the inner workings of clinical practice, in which the relationship between analyst and patient is said to recapitulate symbolically the brother-sister, and king-queen incest relations depicted in the Rosarium Philosophorum of medieval alchemy (Jung, 1946/1966). But more significant for my present purposes is Jung's statement that not just sex, but human existence itself is ugly and meaningless, which suggests that numinosity will not inhere there either. In other words, it is not just sex that lacks numinosity, but anything having to do with ordinary human life at all.
Numinosity is a personal experience. That will be clear to anyone who ever has felt it, for it is not just overarching sensations of awe, dread, and humility that feel especially numinous, but also profound feelings of captivation, and allure, and what captivates one person may mean nothing at all to another. In the early 70s, I played the bass guitar in a soul band. Although I cannot now reexperience them, I can still remember faintly the special feelings that occasionally overcame me when I opened the case of my instrument and saw my bass guitar nestled in its red velvet padding. Everything else would disappear: the room, the stage, the lights, the voices of the patrons, even the awareness of my own physical body. And sometimes when I drew my bass out of its case, I was bewitched, and then inspired, filled with energy, by gazing at the ghostly shape the instrument had left behind in its velvet bed. For me, that bass guitar was an reservoir of numinosity; simply holding it seemed to fill me with mana. Often, when playing the instrument, an odd sensation would come over me. My body seemed weightless and transparent. My nerves on edge. My teeth felt like the most solid part of me. Then some essential focus would shift, and suddenly I was not playing the bass, but I was being played by the bass. The instrument was making the music, while my hands seemed to be moving in accord with forces beyond my volition, and out of my control. As athletes sometimes put this, I was "in the zone."
In regard to Freud's experience of sexuality, it seems that Jung would not recognize that variety of numinosity. The kind of numinosity credible to Jung had to do with God, not guitars or sexual excitement. Later in the same chapter in which he said he was "sick and tired of these ugly [sexual] matters," Jung --"in retrospect," as he put it--softened his position on Freud, and on sexuality. "Sexuality," he wrote, "is of the greatest importance as the expression of the chthonic spirit. That spirit is the ˆîother face of God,' the dark side of the God-image" (1965, p. 168). Now that statement seems especially significant to the present consideration of psychotherapy as personal confession. Jung explicitly put sexuality in the shadows: sex is the dark side of the God-image. Why is it not the light side? Why is sexuality chthonic, that is Plutonian, or sulphurous? Why, for instance, aren't warfare, and murder, the destruction of life, the dark side of the God-image, and sexuality, the instinct towards the creation of new life, the light side? Why chthonic, and not Elysian, or golden? Also, why does God have two faces? Why not one face? Or, as Hillman likes, countless faces?
Before going on to consider those questions, a brief detour: recall that the authenticity of Memories, Dreams, Reflections, Jung's "autobiography" from which I have drawn his words on Freud and sexuality, was severely impugned by Noll (1997). Jung may have authored those words about sex, and perhaps he did not. However, even assuming that he did write them, the analysis I am about to make will, I submit, say more about me as an interpreter of Jung's story than about Jung, whose story can be read in 10,000 ways. Accordingly, what is being discussed here is "Jung" in the sense of Hillman's notion of case history as fiction, and not the historical Jung, a "factual" entity. The distinction is important. If we are speaking of fiction, then exegesis is appropriate, and answers to such questions as how many faces Jung's God may have, and why, for Jung, sex is chthonic become expatiation, not expos¬é.
That said, Jung's God cannot have only one face; a view of God with only one face would not be "psychological," but religiously dogmatic. One face would be the New Testament Christian God, scorned by Jung, a disembodied fountainhead of pure goodness, with all evil unambiguously split off to be shouldered first by Satan and then by human beings, particularly in regard to their bodily functions. If God has only one face, everything noble is God, and everything ignoble is not God. With a one-faced God, the problem of evil becomes simply a problem of human comportment, and the story of Job, which fascinated Jung, loses significance. Put another way, if God has only one face, Jung would have no way to penetrate the conspicuous phenomenon of human ambivalence, which, by giving God two faces, he freed himself to psychologize with ideas such as enantiodromia (Jung's coinage for the Taoist idea that things tend to become their opposites), as
the hammer and tongs battle between ego and Self which he called individuation, or as the duality of conscious attitudes counterbalancing unconscious ones, and vice versa.
Jungians like to say that the goal is not perfection, but completeness; however, Jung's notion of the "other face of God" (that is, specifically not the many faces of God), along with his repudiation of the possible numinosity of sexuality, indicates a tendency less towards completeness than towards hierarchy. In other words, Jung, at heart, was classically monotheistic. "The anima/animus stage is correlated with polytheism," he wrote, "the self with monotheism," (1951/1968b, p. 268, emphasis mine) That is why Jung's God cannot have countless faces. True, there are manifold archetypes, but they are just bit players in the drama. The star of the show is the central archetype, the Self, which, as Jung put it,
proves to be an archetypal idea which differs from other ideas of the kind in that it occupies a central position befitting the significance of its content and its numinosity. (1921/1971, p. 461, emphasis mine)
But if God must have two faces, not one, or many, why must sexuality be the chthonic side of Jung's God? Why not the ethereal side? Sexuality was the chthonic side of Jung's God, because sexuality was the chthonic side of Jung. His famous Turm (tower) at Bollingen, built with Jung's own hands, which has become a hadj for Jungians, was his "sexual space, a pagan sin altar where, removed from his wife and family in K¬ünacht and his disciples in Zurich, he could enjoy his intimate companion, Toni Wolff, with orgiastic abandon (Noll, 1997, p. 3). And as for the Turm, the erection of Jung's own labor: one doesn't even need to refer to its shape to see the Freudian implications.
Now in Otto's (1958) conception, the appearance of the numinous was the central element of religious experience. He said that the numinous was "felt to be objective and outside the self" (supra). The key word here is "felt." One's only way of perceiving the world is through psyche. There may be a God, or gods "outside" of the psyche, but an individual has no way objectively of knowing that. Whatever may objectively exist comes to us mediated by the psyche. In other words, the psyche itself constitutes our only directly knowable reality, and whether or not psychic experiences, including experiences of numinosity, reflect or coincide with a larger, trans-psychic, ultimate reality, cannot ever be known psychologically. Thus, while the experience of the numinous feels undeniable when it occurs, attributing it to an agency larger or more comprehensive than the psyche, or at least to an agency not coincident with the psyche--the hand of God, for instance--is a matter of faith, not of psychology. And even if one eschews the kind of faith arising from mysticism, preferring an intellectual approach to the question of the divine, psychology, by the very nature of its approach, limits itself to studying psychic manifestations, not ultimate "truths," which are more properly the business of ontology or theology.
When Jung said that "the approach to the numinous is the real therapy" (supra) he was referring expressly to certain visions perceived while he hovered between life and death during a heart attack, but that short phrase encapsulates the central principles of the Jung's entire psychotherapeutic methodology: 1) something larger than the individual personality exists, and makes itself known through visions, dreams, synchronicities, intuitions, etc., and 2) that "something," which Jung called "the Self," has the power to heal neurotic manifestations by correctly orienting the individual life and awareness towards the natural telos of that life which is individuation. Since there are many other less teleological explanations for dreams and visions, those two principles already constitute a statement of faith, but so far they do not necessarily presume or require an agency transcendental to the psyche. In other words, "Self" as the healing or orienting force could be understood as referring not necessarily to "God," but only to the totality of the psyche, while the ego, which feels the need for the healing or orienting, may be a part of that same "Self." In that schema, ego, in its non-individuated state, is relatively unaware of the larger psyche of which it is a fragment. Thus from the point of view of the ego, the "Self" may at first seem transcendental to one's own being, but later, at least as a conjectural endpoint, may come to be known not as "God," but as psyche, one's own "inner personality" (Jung, 1921/1971). Thus, Jung's clinical metapsychology does not necessarily require that psychic manifestations, such as dreams, visions, and numinous experiences be seen as given by the hand of God. Arguably, therefore, one could practice a kind of "Jungian analysis" without believing in God at all. Dreams, visions, and numinosities could be regarded as communications from the totality of the psyche--which may or may not implicate "God"--to the conscious fraction of the psyche (ego), and the deeper religious question thereby finessed.
It is clear, however, that Jung was not content to leave the matter there. He did say that "the unconscious is the immediate source of our religious experiences" (1954/1980, p. 682, emphasis mine), but then went on to confess his own religious experience which he conceived as antecedent to the unconscious, that is, as trans-psychological:
The psychic nature of all experience does not mean that the transcendental realities are also psychic; the physicist does not believe that the transcendental reality represented by his psychic model is also psychic. He calls it matter, and in the same way the psychologist in no wise attributes a psychic nature to his images or archetypes. He calls them "psychoids" and is convinced that they represent transcendental realities, He even knows of "simple faith" as that conviction which one cannot avoid. It is vain to seek for it; it comes when it wills, for it is the gift of the Holy Spirit. There is only one divine spirit--an immediate presence, often terrifying and in no degree subject to our choice. There is no guarantee that it may not just as well be the devil, as happened to St. Ignatius Loyola in his vision of the serpens oculatus, interpreted at first as Christ or God and later as the devil. . . .
Surrender to God is a formidable adventure, and as "simple" as any situation over which man has no control. He who can risk himself wholly to it finds himself directly in the hands of God, and is there confronted with a situation which makes "simple faith" a vital necessity; in other words, the situation becomes so full of risk or overtly dangerous that the deepest instincts are aroused. An experience of this kind is always numinous, for it unites all aspects of totality. (pp. 682-683)
Here we see confirmation of my earlier assertion that Jung was, at heart, monotheistic ("there is only one divine spirit"), but more than monotheism is involved. It is seen that for Jung the images or archetypes were definitively not of the psyche, but rather the reflection by the psyche of transcendental realities which the archetypes represent, or embody. In that view, the individual psyche, that is, the soul--Seele in Jung's original German text, not Anima--is regarded not as the source of images, but more correctly as the receiver of images which emanate from elsewhere (the Holy Spirit). A feasible analogy would see the soul as a television set which does not make pictures, but only displays them, assuming it is tuned to a channel that is broadcasting them. This implies that, although the archetypes are perceived psychically, they cannot be understood psychologically. They are trans-psychological. Whatever ultimate significance the archetypes may have is a matter of "simple faith," and certainly is beyond discovering by means of therapeutic processes. Therefore, in Jung's conception, the practice of depth psychotherapy becomes, ultimately, totally a matter of faith.
Jung, confessing his metaphysical commitment to belief in the two faces of God, wrote,
as good is real so also is evil. . . . we can but trust to our mental powers on the one hand and on the other to the functioning of the unconscious, that spirit which we cannot control. It can only be hoped that it is a "holy" spirit. The cooperation of conscious reasoning with the data of the unconscious is called the "transcendent function" . . . . This function unites the opposites. Psychotherapy makes use of it to heal neurotic dissociations, but this function had already served as the basis of Hermetic philosophy for seventeen centuries. Besides this, it is a natural and spontaneous phenomenon, part of the process of individuation. Psychology has no proof that this process does not unfold itself at the instigation of God's will. (1954/1980, p. 690)
But if psychology has no proof that the process of individuation does not unfold itself at the instigation of God's will, it also has no proof that the process does unfold itself at the instigation of God's will. That is a matter beyond the ken of psychology; it is a matter of faith alone. And even if the process of individuation does proceed at God's behest, that still is no guarantee that a psychotherapy based upon the telos of individuation should be imagined as benign, or even necessarily helpful on the human level. God, in Jung's view, is a paradoxical complexio oppositorum, "like YHWH [who has] two hands; the right is Christ, the left Satan, and it is with these two hands that he rules the world" (p. 682), leading Jung to declare:
True, we ought to abandon ourselves to the divine will as much as we can, but admit that to do so is difficult and dangerous, so dangerous indeed that I would not dare to advise one of my clients to "take" the Holy Spirit or to abandon himself to him until I had first made him realize the risks of such an enterprise. (1954/1980, pp. 684-685)
Ironically, this point of view is radically different from that of many present-day Jungians who proceed therapeutically on the assumption that activating the transcendent function by engaging a patient in dream analysis, active imagination, or analysis of the transpersonal aspects of the transference will automatically be healing and helpful. That perspective assumes either a totally benign God (one face), or posits that God is irrelevant, as in psychological humanism which imagines the Earth and its inhabitants as the center of the universe, and envisions only positive outcomes for therapy: freedom, meaningful relationships, self-expressiveness, openness, fairness, and "love." Of course, the split, the complexio oppositorum, that Jung located in the Holy Spirit has to inhere somewhere; it can be maneuvered, but not banished. In humanistic psychotherapy that split turns up this way: "human potential," which humanistic therapy aims at "maximizing," itself is "God." If the client gets "better"--that is, has fulfilling relationships, learns to manage anger, feels creative, etc.--then the therapy has succeeded (Christ). If the client does not get better, then the therapy has failed (Satan). With that orientation, one may have a sand tray in the office, teach the client to make mandala drawings, analyze dreams in terms of shadow and anima, notice synchronicities everywhere, and hold forth on therapy in alchemical argot, but nonetheless be miles away--further away than Freud was, or Adler--from Jung's personal confession that his practice of psychotherapy implicated an awestruck fear of the duality of the Holy Spirit, and a fervent, but by no means certain, hope that the spirit involved in the transcendent function would be a benign one. In other words, practicing analysis as Jung practiced it is not primarily a matter of technique, but of being in agreement with the religious premises that underlie Jungian metapsychology, first of which is that therapy does not necessarily serve the ego--the everyday sense of self as an agent that chooses behaviors in order to accomplish some end-- rather, therapy serves the "Self," which is everything that the ego is not.
This point, in my opinion, has been widely misunderstood. "Jungian" analysis has too often become a kind of humanistic quest, and individuation a kind of upbeatproject along the lines of the United States Army slogan, "be all that you can be." That kind of "Jungian" analysis bases itself upon the metaphysical presupposition that the Self is an all-knowing, wise, kind, benign presence, like the God of Christian Science who only heals, never makes ill. Jung himself, Noll's observations notwithstanding, is often imagined that way: wise, kind, benign, vulnerary. Jung, however, did not envisage that individuation involved becoming "better," or "all that you can be." On the contrary, in a deep sense, individuation meant losing oneself entirely:
Individuation is not that you become an ego; you would then be an individualist. . . a person who did not succeed at individuating. . . . Individuating is becoming that which is not the ego, and that is very strange. Nobody understands what the self is, because the self is just what you are not . . . if you function through your self, you are not yourself--that is what you feel . . . as if you were a stranger. (1975, p. 31)
Thus, success in therapy, according to Jung, would leave the client feeling as if always estranged from oneself, always alienated from egotistic aims, never completely at home in life. This obviously has nothing to do with such New Age enterprises as developing one's potential, improving self-esteem, becoming self-actuating, having peak experiences, etc. In fact, it is quite the opposite. In Jungian analysis, the productions of the Self--dreams, fantasies, art works, the projection onto the analyst of inner figures--are used by the therapist to help the client precisely to decenter the idea that "I" (ego) am the Self, or ever will be.
It was just Jung's particular genius, in my view, that his metapsychology was not just a confession of his own personality structure, but also an explicit confession of his metaphysics, and his religious beliefs, which many psychologists try to hide, and only confess inadvertently. It might be argued that my separating religious beliefs from personality structure is a false distinction, but that position reduces intimations of the godhead to mere manifestations of intrapsychic processes. For example, the psychological reductionist might assert that Jung's faith in God was a projection of parental imagoes, or indicated a failure sufficiently to sublimate libidinal drives towards his father, or was erected as a defense against unthinkable infantile anxieties such as falling forever, or going to pieces. From that standpoint, it would be argued that Jung's religious beliefs were part of his personality structure, or that his metaphysical presumptions reflected his personality, but that would be to nullify Jung's own confession, which expressed his intuition of the presence of a greater Self, and his devotion to serving that. Jung's therapy was directed not primarily towards the person, nor the ego, nor even towards the quasi-personal "subjective psyche," but towards serving the ends of the "objective psyche" (1917/1966a). Jung separated person from psyche, and in trying to argue that they should not be separated, the reductionist cannot help but misunderstand Jung.
The outcome of separating person from psyche, and choosing to serve psyche, in Jung's own estimation, was this:
I have no judgment about myself and my life. There is nothing I am quite sure about. I have no definite convictions--not about anything, really. . . . I exist on the foundation of something I do not know. . . . When Lao-tzu says: "All are clear, I alone am clouded," he is expressing what I now feel in advanced old age. (1965, p. 358)
It seems to me, that few persons would embark on a course of Jungian analysis, either as the analyst or as analysand, if those words really were understood. Who, after all, consciously wants to work toward becoming more clouded?
Psychotherapy As Personal Confession
Recall that it was regarding Freudian analysis that Barratt (supra) said, "psychoanalytic process indicates the falsity of any belief in a mastery of consciousness or communication." But those words could apply equally to the discoveries of Jung who confessed that, "the older I have become, the less I have understood or had insight into or known about myself" (1965, p. 358). Thus, in my opinion, a most central premise of depth psychology--Freudian, Jungian, or otherwise--is that one may not know anything. When Marie-Louise von Franz, an analysand and disciple of Jung, and later a theorist and analyst in her own right, asked Freud, "When do we intervene?" Freud replied, "I don't know" (James Hillman, personal communication, December 6, 1996). That exchange has the feel of a Zen Buddhist encounter like this one:
student: "Who am I?"
roshi: "Who wants to know?"
Those two roles, von Franz and Freud, or student and roshi, epitomize the difference between an adherent and a personal confessor. The adherent cleaves to a theoretical perspective which, already existing, prefabricated, and extrinsic to the personal experience of the adherent, must be held, at least in part, dogmatically as a knowing of something. The personal confessor, whose psychological outlook becomes more and more "clouded," as it becomes more and more personal, moves always away from dogma and into the unknown. As a Jungian adherent, or a Freudian adherent, or a Kohutian adherent, or a Hillmanian adherent, one is already unfortunately in retreat from the uncertainty of one's own moment-to-moment psychological phenomenology. To adopt the Jungian confession, for example, without putting it to proof within one's own being, will provide the comforting illusion of knowing something about "psychology," hence, about oneself. Suddenly one can speak confidently about one's "anima problems," or "father complex." On the other hand, focusing one's efforts upon the more fluid project of noticing the idiosyncratic, weathery, capricious psychic singularities of one's own experience, will, if honestly pursued, lead to not knowing, that is, to a sense of oneself as "a stranger to oneself," as Kristeva (1991) phrased it. Thus, psychotherapy as personal confession operates in the mode of not knowing, and psychotherapy becomes the work not of interpretation by means of theory, but the work of profound noticing, abetted by active deconstruction of theory, of what is arising in the potential space between therapist and patient.
Aided by the ready-made theoretical spectacles of a brilliant predecessor, one's psychotherapeutic vision feels too sharp, not sufficiently clouded. Psychological seeing is debased, not enhanced, by excessive acuity. Some blurred vision, squinting, and rubbing of the eyes allows images that will not appear to the hawkeye of certainty. Recall Bion's saying (supra): "Instead of . . . a brilliant, intelligent, knowledgeable light . . . I suggest a diminution of the light--a penetrating beam of darkness; a reciprocal of the searchlight."
It is just those eerie and numinous sensations of unfamiliarity and strangeness with oneself that enable one to meet with another, not as an expert, ready with explanations and interpretations, but as a collaborator in an exploration of the unknown. One's own sense of not knowing enables, as Buber put it, a meeting between I and thou, in which "one exists over and against the other, as his other, as one able in common presence to withstand and confirm him" (1973, p. 57). In my experience, it is precisely in those moments when the patient beholds the therapist as his other--that is, when the patient's projections of power, knowledgeability, and mastery collapse for lack of firm support in the cognitive commitments of the therapist--that something can happen that really deserves to be called therapeutic.
This is not to say that psychotherapy is entirely a personal confession, or that the therapist should pretend to the condition of tabula rasa. Being entirely without metapsychological presuppositions is not possible. In the first place, our very learning of spoken language immediately entangles each of us in a web of collective meanings apart from which personal meanings cannot be expressed (Lacan 1956/1988), and these collective meanings, arising from the very structure of language, implicate the most basic psychological viewpoints. To chose but one example, the Japanese word amaeru, which means "the expectation of being loved," expresses perfectly Balint's (1968) idea of "primary object love," in which an infant, having its wishes and expectations, assumes that the primary love object--mother, initially--would automatically have the same wishes and expectations. In that view, aggression is not an inherent drive ¬à la Freud, but arises in the absence of a loving understanding between child and caretaker, and narcissism is not an natural manifestation of the nuclear self with a normal developmental line of its own ¬à la Kohut, but a subordinate phenomenon that arises only due to frustration of the infant's fundamental needs for primary object love. In other words, an infant is born expecting to be loved, and psychological problems eventuate when that expectation--"to establish," in Balint's words, "an all embracing harmony with one's environment," (p. 65)--is not met. A Japanese, even if he or she never had read a word of psychology, would presume Balint's viewpoint simply because the word amaeru implies it. This would not be true for a European whose language contains no such word. According to Doi (1973), amaeru, along with its derivatives such as amai, which means "sweet," is so commonly used that the Japanese find it almost impossible to believe that there is no word for amaeru in the European languages. Secondly, beyond the fundamental implications of language, the psychologist's "personal confesson" is admixed, willy nilly, with the deadening pervasion of Cartesian, European, patriarchal, intellectualist cultural values, experienced, often more or less unmindfully, as "myself, and my ideas." Finally, the training of a psychotherapist inevitably involves required familiarity with specific theoretical models and assortments of jargon that inevitably implicate cultural premises even if those models and terms of art appear critical of the cultural gestalt. Clearly, there is no absolute freedom from acculturation. But the cultural background, the theoretical models, and the psychological jargon need ongoing deconstruction if they are not to become a bedrock of conviction, foreclosing a genuine therapeutic meeting between I and thou, perhaps even, as for Jung, a meeting mediated by what is neither I nor thou.
Naturally, many humans, psychotherapists included, are not at all interested in seeing through the premises of their cultural background; the more popular project is to try to succeed within those premises, so that, from the typical perspective, desires for power, prestige, position, wealth, and fame seem normal, and their attainment occasions for personal pride. Each time such accomplishments are celebrated, those values are reinforced, unexamined, both within the person, and within the wider culture at large. Now and then, one individual or another really does work at noticing his or her own acculturation, but such work is not easy. Intellectual efforts to gain a wider cultural awareness often tend to confirm and energize the very Cartesian, intellectualist premises that need unmasking. Non-intellectual approaches, such as, for example, the spiritual practices of foreign cultures, sometimes do avail, but often they are subtly deformed in ego-syntonic directions so that what appears be a attempt at cultural transcendence ends up being another version of New Age humanism with increased self-esteem and peak-experiences as the ultimate goal. Thus, the would-be spiritual seeker still functions as a thoroughly self-centered consumer, a kind of spiritual materialist (Trungpa, 1972). In my experience, this latter dilemma is often one of the first difficulties to be faced in moving towards the depths of depth psychotherapy. To choose just one example, the popularity of "meditation," for instance, has produced a strange hybrid of Eastern with Western cultural values so that "meditation" has become a kind of drug, like Valium--a way of calming oneself, stilling the mind, or feeling better--and the practice of "meditation" has become a technique, like a golf swing, to be perfected with time and effort. But those attitudes are the very antithesis of meditation--and, by extension, depth psychotherapy--the very essence of which is the profound noticing of what is in the very moment, with no attention to changing anything.
Earlier, I mentioned the sensations of numinosity which, for me in the 1970s, surrounded playing the electric bass. During the next decade, the 80s, I produced a series of photographs of the nude human form in nature. In an interview, I was asked how I went about composing those images which were said to have an inner magic, and a shamanic sensibility. Here is part of my reply:
I might say to the model "stretch your arm up," or something like that. I'm not doing this because I'm thinking, "This isn't composed properly." My decision is based on something that is much deeper than composition. I'm looking for a feeling, and it is unmistakable. When there's really something there that works for me, suddenly I feel a tremendous calmness. It's as if time has stopped. (Saltzman, 1990, p. 216)
Now that feeling of tremendous calmness as if time has stopped, is an apprehension of numinosity. The sudden, unmediated recognition of a particular gesture as a magical gesture--the perfect gesture, the only gesture--directly conveys the mythic or mystic. As Jung articulated this, "archetypes are complexes of experience that come upon us like fate" (1934/1968a, p. 30). To perceive a human gesture, and simultaneously to apperceive its unmistakable significance, that is, its perfection, brings a startling sensation of timelessness, of inevitability, of kismet. In a similar regard, dancer and Jungian analyst Joan Blackmer cited one of her teachers who advised her
to move as if every movement we made was only the most recent in a long chain of movements--every movement we had ever made, and our ancestors before. All this was attached to our backs and stretched out behind us. . . . As this potent image went deeper into my being, I suddenly became aware of my place in time. The front of my body, which like the ego expresses the present and faces to the future, carries on its back my personal and collective history. (1989, p. 81, emphasis mine)
Blackmer's sudden awareness was also a kind of numinous experience induced by the "potent image" given to her by her teacher.
As I observed earlier, numinosity, regardless of whether or not it is transpersonal in origin, is an experience personally felt. What feels numinous to one person, may leave another completely untouched. Perhaps those who have appreciated my photographs have felt something of the time-has-stopped numinosity that descended upon me in the making of them, but others have looked at the same images and noticed nothing out of the ordinary. Yet a numinous experience feels objectively motivated. Consequently, sensations of numinosity are paradoxical. One is seized by feelings that seem to be transpersonal, or even universal, while at the same time knowing that others may discern nothing momentous. I remember, for example, hearing an organ concert at the old cathedral in Riga, Latvia that moved me unimaginably. When the music stopped, and my awareness came back to my person, I found my face wet with tears. How strange it was to see all the people around me preparing to leave, asking one another for cigarettes, arranging where to go next. Hadn't they heard? Apparently, not. It was my turn to be moved, my turn to experience the numinous.
Now my personal experience of psychotherapy, both as therapist and as patient, is not so different from my experience in music or photography. The best moments possess--or perhaps it is better to say are possessed by--that singular aura of numinosity, a paradoxical sense of otherness which, although experienced inwardly and personally, feels objectively provoked. Lately, I sense this as an apparently objective field of compassionate understanding that surrounds and interpenetrates both parties to the therapeutic dialogue. For me, there is something prodigiously convincing about such moments, and I like to honor them, and to use them in my work. For instance, a patient brought a lengthy and intricate dream of returning home to find an intruder in her house. After some dilation of the dream along the Hillmanian lines of staying strictly with the images, I had an flash of intuition, and, although it seemed a considerable reach, I offered this interpretation:
"I wonder if this is a dream about alcoholism."
"You're right. It is," she said without hesitation, and, as she spoke, a frisson ran through my body, and my hair stood on end.
"Now I'm convinced that this has to do with alcoholism," I said. "When you told me I was right, my hair stood on end."
"I'm sure too," she replied, visibly moved. "I'm feeling chills all up and down my spine."
Perhaps there really is something objective or holy about such moments of numinosity which Jung believed to be "the real therapy," (supra) but I confess to having no way of knowing that. My honoring and utilizing such feelings in therapeutic work is a matter of art, and perhaps also a matter of faith, that is, a personal confession of my own psychology and metaphysics, not Jung's, and not anyone else's. But to claim that adumbrations of the numinous factually point to something beyond the personal, would go far beyond art or faith. An attitude like that, in the therapeutic milieu, smacks of dogmatism, dictativeness, advocacy, and authoritarianism, qualities that, in my view, are poisonous to psychotherapeutic work, for they undermine the non-judgmental openheartedness of the personal encounter which, in my opinion, is the sine qua non of good therapy.
If ideas alone, without the establishment and eventual analysis of a deep personal engagement between patient and therapist, always could heal, then depth psychotherapy would not be needed. One could simply read a book on metaphysics or metapsychology, or an essay on religious experience, and that would be sufficiently therapeutic. If images alone, without an intentional human relationship to help contain and interpret them, always could heal, then depth psychotherapy would not be needed. One could simply dream and fantasize, or, if requiring more exogenous imagery, go to the movies, or to church, or to an exhibition of pictures, and that would be sufficiently therapeutic.
In my opinion, for some people, at some times, an intentional, professional, ritualized, therapeutic relationship, often including analysis of the transference, is just what is needed. That kind of work has been called narcissistic and unnatural, but I cannot agree. Such judgments tar with the same brush a wide spectrum of therapeutic work, some of which, in my view, is eminently helpful, and uniquely valuable. Some archetypal psychologists inveigh against personal psychotherapy because it removes the focus of attention from the world, they say, and puts it on the self, thereby leaving the world uncared for. I agree that the world deserves our compassionate care, but what comprises one's "world" is a matter of perspective, that is, of personal confession, and the care that each individual can give is a matter of ability and inclination, that is, of personal confession. Personally, I rarely think of "saving the planet." It's too big, and, in my view, may not even need "saving."
But even if one agrees that the planet, under attack from increasingly importunate economic exploitation by a burgeoning human population, does need saving, and even if one believes that therapeutic efforts which do not serve that agenda are wasteful, unjustified, and counterproductive, that still would not mean that depth psychotherapy is without value. In my experience, a successful analysis, which empowers the patient to give up excessive reliance on archaic inner object relationships, liberates that person precisely to become attentive to the needs of others and to the needs of the world around him or her--that is, to join the world as a member of the community--and this is in direct proportion to the degree of liberation from the previous reliance on the archaic inner objects. Most likely, urging such a person rhetorically to turn attention to the soul of the world, or to citizenship, or to community, would accomplish nothing. Without the inner liberation provided by the analysis, that person had no ability to turn attention elsewhere; it was persistently fixated upon the primitive objects of unrecognized, unsatisfied needs and desires.
In Jewish mysticism, it is said that within each person is a universe, so that whoever saves a life saves an entire universe. That expresses well my approach towards practicing psychotherapy. No doubt wider social action is also needed, as well as work aimed at better connecting the individual to the world at large, but not, in my view, to the exclusion of the project of personal alchemy by means of one-pointed, non-judgmental, profound consideration of individual human interiority. With no particular wider agenda.
Earlier, I discussed therapeutic work with survivors of incest and severe abuse. Such work presents special difficulties for the therapist. Entering into an meaningful, long-term relationship with someone who is deeply wounded, and perhaps not functioning well socially, can be trying on many levels, not the least of which is bearing up to the sadness, anger, or even rage, stirred up within the psyche of the therapist upon hearing about the maltreatment of the patient. Such difficult feelings signify more than just moral indignation. Nor are they only reflections of the suffering of the world, nor solely projections of the patient's rage into the therapist, although that component of projective identification (see Racker, 1968) probably is present. Such feelings probably also reverberate the therapist's own sadness, anger, and rage at early experiences of perceived mistreatment, even if such mistreatment was not particularly abusive or severe. Consequently, to do the work, the therapist must willingly subject himself or herself to suffering a series of burdensome affects and onerous emotions which are, at least in part, intensely personal. Further, continued exposure to accounts of cruelty and violence, which really cannot--or at least, in my view, should not--be heard as fiction, can impel the therapist towards more prolonged moods of cynicism or depression which then must be swallowed and somehow digested, or, if that proves impossible, simply borne compassionately.
In a lovely essay called "House and City," Sardello (1992) discussed feelings aroused in himself by his realization that "city design deadens the soul, and we must realize that the city is dying" (p. 45). On seeing the dying city, one's first instinct, he said, is denial. Following that,
a response of rage follows [that] makes us want to flee the city. Rage--felt, held, not shut off nor denied nor acted out--leads to compassion. Compassion must be nurtured to the point that one suffers with things. Compassion opens the soul, an opening which can lead to a different perception of the city, one which ceases merely to look at the city and begins to engage the city's invisible soul. (p. 45)
When reading those words, I was reminded of my work with survivors of child abuse. The focus of Sardello's essay was the city--that is, "outside" of self--and the focus in my work is the person--that is, "inside" of self--but the working process seems identical. One sees the damage. One becomes angry. One wants to flee (meaning, in my case, not take on the patient). One allows the feelings of rage which leads to a compassionate opening of soul.
When reading his next words, I was particularly struck by the parallel between Sardello's commitment to the work of ensouling the city, and my commitment to the work of helping psychically wounded persons. This is what he said:
In order for anything to express itself, it needs to be held in positive regard. But this regard is not a judgment of the thing as beautiful when it is not, or as good when it is not. The positive regard is the capacity to experience the particularity of the things of the world in an attitude of silence and waiting. The heart says yes there is something here to behold beyond what I think or feel about it. The heart does not strive after meaning, but rather allows the things to disclose themselves. (1972, pp. 45-46).
Now, if every appearance of word "thing" in Sardello's affirmation were simply changed to the word "person," that affirmation would express faithfully my attitude towards the practice of depth psychotherapy. I seek to view my patients, however wounded, awkward, or troublesome they may seem to be, with positive regard. I get to know them. As their interiority is disclosed, compassion arises, and, in my personal experience, that compassion provides an enveloping matrix in which healing may occur. Whether that healing is called ensoulment, reconnection to the world, restoration of the self, reintegration of the personality, individuation, or the grace of God does not, in my personal confession, seem ultimately to matter very much. Those phrases are only words that refer to the indescribable, indefinable, ineffable anyway.
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 Other possible reductions of transpersonal experiences to intrapsychic psychodynamics, listed by Corbett (1995, p. 18), include: an infantile wish to merge with the mother in oceanic bliss, a defensive operation to soothe feelings of unbearable loss, infantile wishes for parental protection, failures of object love which lead to the creation of a libidinal tie to an internal object, need for an unfailing selfobject, a special variety of transitional object, etc.