Wendy Neville Jones Interviews Gary Trosclair About His New Book

Jung compulsive

Gary Trosclair wears many hats here at the Jung Institute – teacher, supervisor, director of our Low-Fee Clinic and president of NYAAP – in addition to his private practice as a Jungian analyst in Manhattan and Westchester County, NY.   He is also the author of The Healthy Compulsive Project Blog  and two books, I’m Working On It in Therapy: How to Get the Most Out of Psychotherapy, published in 2015, and The Healthy Compulsive: Healing Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder and Taking the Wheel of the Driven Personality, just published in February 2020.  He discusses his latest book below with fellow Jungian analyst Wendy Neville Jones.

 

WNJ:   Your book describes masterfully the downside of being overly compulsive and the benefits of modifying and channeling this personality trait.  But historically, haven’t we needed highly compulsive, driven characters to move society in important new directions?   I’m thinking of people like Gandhi, Franklin Roosevelt or Steve Jobs, to mention a few, who sacrificed relationships, health and even longevity to pursue world-changing goals.  What are your thoughts on this?

GT:   Yes, I believe that many people who have compulsive dispositions have been indispensable to any progress we’ve made as a culture. I would add to your list Dr. Martin Luther King, who was driven to achieve social justice, despite the clear danger to his own life.

I consider this to be a manifestation of the teleology, the purpose and meaning, behind the compulsive personality.

As I say in my book, it’s not the people with the best ideas that direct the course of history, but the people with the most determination. Many of the movers and shakers of the world are compulsive. Part of the purpose of the book and the Healthy Compulsive Project blog are to help the people who are driven or compulsive to contribute what they can, rather than have their energy cause conflict and depression. This is also why I am making the distinction between a healthy compulsive and an unhealthy compulsive.

 

WNJ:   You describe how compulsions can provide a sense of control in a chaotic world.  Given how chaotic our country and world are right now, giving up control can seem pretty frightening.   Explain the paradoxical benefits of modifying this trait.

GT:   Certainly, control can be adaptive and reassuring at a time like this, when a microscopic organism is upending our entire world. In fact, I think that one of the reasons that compulsive aspects of the personality have evolved is that they are highly adaptive in situations like this. They have helped us to survive.

The problem with the way that some people use control is that they start to try to control everything out of habit. It becomes their default way of going about things in the world, and often what they really do need to control gets lost.

Unhealthy compulsivity is based on a quantitative life, rather than a qualitative life. Sure, theoretically you might be able to extend your life indefinitely now if you never touched anything again. But what for?

Jung said in The Red Book that he would not want to be a charioteer, because if he had all the control, a lot of really good things, things he would never have considered, would not come to pass. What we’re talking about here is the age-old mythological battle between the ego and the unconscious. The ego wants to maintain all the control, but without the rejuvenating qualities of the unconscious, our world contracts and dies spiritually.

 

WNJ:   You describe compulsion as a healthy urge that has become channeled into unhealthy attitudes and behaviors. Can you explain this further, and how it relates to Jung’s ideas about individuation?

GT:   Sure. The etymology of the word compulsive describes a driving urge that’s hard to resist. This is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact I’d argue that we need to listen to these urges to see what they are about. Coming from a Jungian perspective, I look for the seed of something meaningful in it. The problem is that the energy that comes with this urge can be hijacked for other purposes, most often the avoidance of shame or insecurity. If you’ve got the genetic predisposition for perfectionism, it would make sense that you would use it to try to stay out of trouble.

Jung wrote that we have a compulsion toward individuation—a deep, almost uncontrollable urge, to become who we have the potential to be, an urge to consciously create and evolve the human spirit. This is a powerful urge, since nature needs us to develop as individuals to prevent herd mentality. But this energy gets hijacked at times and it actually inhibits the growth of the personality instead of motivating it.

 

WNJ:  In several places you describe the dangers of someone with a Compulsive Personality using his own body, or relationships with significant others, as “vehicles” for acting out their compulsions.  Can you give an example of how this can be destructive?

GT:   To be more specific, in these cases I would say that compulsives may use their body, or other people, or their energy, as vehicles to prove their worth to themselves and others. It’s not so much that the compulsive urge is acted out, but all the energy behind the compulsive urge hijacks the body or relationships or talents to reassure themselves that they are decent, worthy people.

So some body-builders for instance, become compulsive about shaping their body in a certain way. Then the body become a vehicle to get them to a place of greater security. Similarly, someone who is born with natural caring, compassion and empathy may enlist that talent to reassure themselves that they are OK.

By the way, this is different from narcissism, where the individual needs to feel special. I find that compulsives are just trying to feel that they aren’t being bad or aren’t going to get in trouble, rather than trying to feel better than others.

 

WNJ:   Your description of the Compulsive Personality style sounds similar to Jung’s concept of the Complex — a psychological node of experiences, emotions and behaviors driven by an archetypal core.  You describe some of these compulsion-related archetypes, like the Hero, in your book.  Can you expand on the kinds and roles of archetypes in compulsive psychology?

GT:   Yes. I’ve seen a number of people whose compulsive energy gets sucked into a Prophet complex. They feel that they know what’s right and wrong and they feel a deep responsibility to tell everyone else what to do, no matter the price to themselves or their relationships.

Conscientiousness, by the way, has a genetic component and is one of the defining characteristics of the compulsive personality. And it can really get out of hand. The moral sense forms an archetypal core, and the personal experiences of childhood can shape that core into a very rigid complex.

We can also see the archetypal nature of compulsive control in literature and our contemporary mythologies; Frankenstein, Darth Vader in Star Wars, and Voldemort in Harry Potter are all trying to achieve control compulsively—and we see what it does to them. Each of these had heroic potential, and that potential was hijacked by their need to have control over life and death.

One compensatory archetype is Dionysus—the liberator—who helps to release the ego’s control and be open to more of the effects of the unconscious.

WNJ:   The word “compulsion” is also used in psychology to describe a defense mechanism that the personality uses to protect the ego from unpleasant or destabilizing thoughts and feelings — as you explain in your book.  As therapists we learn to respect the defenses as important — and often tenacious — structures that can keep the personality stable.  How difficult is it to modify a longstanding ego defense in therapy, and are there any dangers in approaching this task?  Have you had patients who are unable to tolerate moderating or relinquishing the defense of compulsion?  Have you found a role for medication in managing the anxiety and other negative emotions that may emerge?

GT:  Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder may be one of the most difficult personality disorders to change, partly because, as a defense, over-working is so welcomed in our culture. For many there is no motivation to change unless they get an ultimatum from a partner or a boss. You can achieve some change with that motivation, but not deep change. Deeper change comes when the individual wants to change and makes his or her personal growth the object of their compulsive energy, which — I would argue—is one of the deeper levels of what the compulsive urge is about–individuation.

Virtually none of my patients are on medication right now, but I know that some people do take it in an effort to help with their compulsiveness. I believe that medication is more effective for the specific compulsions, such as checking and washing, that often come with OCD, which is really a very different diagnosis, and one that’s often incorrectly given to people with OCPD.

I think that we do need to be realistic about what we can offer as therapists. We aren’t able to help everyone. And in some cases the defenses are so strong, and the incentive so small, that change may not occur. In a situation like that, there would be lots of resistance to the medication, and little motivation to take it.

But I haven’t seen any negative consequences of trying to modify the defense system. It seems when they truly need it, they hold onto it despite what the therapist does.

WNJ:   You talk about certain compulsions —  workaholism, excessive exercise, pornography use, social media checking —  that seem epidemic in our culture, and are especially visible in New York City.  How do we combat or modify these kinds of behaviors when they are not only socially and archetypally reinforced, but also produce endorphins, a feel-good brain chemical that can become addicting?  What does your book recommend?  Again, is medication helpful?

GT:   While I work primarily from a psychodynamic perspective, I feel that meditation, twelve-step programs,  and exercise can be very beneficial as first line defenses against some of the addictive compulsions.

Also, compulsives love to make lists and set goals, and these compulsive tendencies can be used in service of progressively diminishing the process addictions. I like to turn the compulsive energy onto the problem itself in a healthy way. My book has plenty of concrete, practical suggestions at the end of every chapter to help people set goals that can help them withdraw from the addictions.

But in the long run it comes down to recognizing and admitting that something is out of balance, and deciding what is most important. So, yes, in certain professions if you work less you will make less money. But what is the money for? If you say that it’s for your family, you need to ask what your family really needs and wants from you. In this type of case, saying that you’re providing for your family is often a rationalization for getting the hit from the achievements, status and financial payoff.

WNJ:   You mention that compulsive people tend not to marry other compulsives.  Why is this the case and how does this tend to play out in relationships?   Explain the role of Jung’s concept of Shadow in this dynamic.

GT:   What I’m beginning to recognize is that there are at least four different kinds of compulsives: authoritarians, people-pleasers,  procrastinating obsessives, and manic compulsives. When compulsives do marry each other, there are usually two different kinds getting together.

But more often, they need someone else who is significantly different to feel a little more whole.  Usually the compulsive needs someone who is more emotional, spontaneous and fun-loving. And the partner needs someone they can depend on. This is searching for our own Shadow elements, the part of us that we don’t want to see the light, the part of us that we don’t want others to see or, often, even acknowledge to ourselves. But being split off from this other side creates a deep longing that we often try to satisfy by finding it in someone else.

If a couple with these contrasting personalities is going to work out, they would each need to develop the Shadow elements that they have had the other person live out for them. This does go for the partner as well, since they may not have claimed their own productivity, determination, reliability, moral sense, or creativity.

WNJ:   You talk about the “trivialization” of the instinct toward psychological growth in our society, an important point in a culture where self-help practices have become tools of social branding.  Say more about this trend and why it is so important to address both personally and collectively.

GT:  There’s a constant tension in us between independent agency and community—developing one’s psychology for one’s own self as opposed to developing it so that we can be in service to the greater good. These are two evolutionary tendencies that have both had adaptive value, and we all struggle with trying to balance them.

It seems to me that in our current society, far too often what is promoted as psychological growth goes only to the level of individualism, and the third stage of the hero’s journey, returning to your community with the boon you found in the underworld, is forgotten.

There was some interesting research done on this subject in the 90s in which it was found that people who went to either extreme, either independent agency or service to community, were less physically healthy. I believe strongly that the same goes for our psychological health. This is one of those many examples of when Jung’s advice to “hold the tension of the opposites” is so valuable.

WNJ:   You use the concept of “purposelessness” in helping to heal the compulsive personality, another term that might seem paradoxical.  Can you expand on this?

GT:   Compulsives are so goal-oriented that it is helpful for them to let go of those goals to some extent. I don’t think the deeper purposes really goes away, but the ego needs to let the unconscious take over. The ego—and I think this was Jung’s over-arching point in all of his work—wants to control it all, but needs to begin to trust the unconscious so that it can actually help it achieve the really important goals. This feels purposeless to the ego. This is really hard for many of us to do. If it doesn’t scare you to try, you probably aren’t letting go enough.

WNJ:   You acknowledge that your book can be used as a self-help guide, but you strongly recommend therapy as well; describing therapy, among other things, as good practice in “delegating” for the compulsive person.   Explain this dynamic further.

GT:   Yes, so much of this is about control for the compulsive, and stepping into a therapist’s office feels like you’re handing over control—the steering wheel—to someone you’ve probably never met before. They tend to be so perfectionistic that they believe no one else will do it well enough. And they may not! Coming to terms with an imperfect therapist may be the most healing thing they can do.

This is one of the reasons that I like to try to explain the therapeutic process as I go along with a patient. As I pointed out in my previous book, I’m Working On It In Therapy, we don’t always explain the therapeutic process to our patients well enough. And for compulsive patients, who tend to be very independent and sensitive to control, this is a really important issue.

You can visit Gary’s blog at The Healthy Compulsive Project,  and you can hear his interview with Dr. David Nay Nuys at Shrink Rap Radio here.

_________________________________________

Wendy Neville Jones completed her Jungian training at the C.G. Jung Institute of New York and holds degrees and licenses that also include LCSW and LP. She also completed a Family Therapy Certificate from the Institute for Contextual Growth and a Clinical Hypnotherapy Certificate from the New York Society of Ericksonian Psychotherapy and Hypnotherapy, and is a certified hypnotherapist and EMDR practitioner. In her practices in Manhattan and Westchester, she works with individuals, couples, families, and hypnotherapy EMDR with a specialty in trauma and dissociation.

 

NYAAP member Michael Conforti presents an archetypal perspective on COVID 19:

Assisi Institute
The International Center For The Study Of Archetypal Patterns Presents:

An Archetypal and Clinical Response to the
COVID-19 Pandemic:
The Ravages of Denial and the Migration and Mutation of Forgotten Contents

Saturday March 28th at 1:30pm-3pm EST

It may seem absurd to suggest that the attitude of the individual to his personal conflicts and problems could have any appreciable effect on an international situation involving the fate of millions, or to turn from the general problem to the personal one as if they were equivalents. Yet that is exactly what anyone with even a minimum of psychological insight is obliged to do if he seeks to understand the age in which he is living or to contribute in a conscious way towards the solution of the world problem.
                                                                                                        M.E. Harding, Psychic Energy pg. 14

 

It was in 1946, with the atrocities of the Holocaust so alive in hearts and minds that Jung wrote;

Something of the abysmal darkness of the world has broken in on us, poisoning the very air we breath and befouling the pure water with the stale, nauseating taste of blood“. (p. 199)

Now almost 75 years later, the world is once again terrified by irruptions from the dark unconscious. We live in fear of contacting the Corona virus, and struggle to keep this unwanted intruder away. Disinfectants, sanitizers, quarantine, locking our doors to strangers, and social distancing is sadly the new norm. And already the losses are unimaginable. Virtually every part of the world is touched by the causalities brought about by this malady. Sadly, there is no way to escape the long and relentless reach of this virus. While we long for contact with friends and loved ones, we are forced to abstain from so much of what brings us comfort. Will we ever find a way to understand and live with the ravages of this forced isolation?

Our attempts to ward off the contagious contents of the outer world have only reinforced our innate tendency to also push away and obliterate the reality of the Psyche.

This theme of keeping the unwanted intruder away is a familiar motif in fairy tales, myth, legends and the cinema. Who can ever forget the iconic scene of Jack Nicholson in The Shinning? The bone chilling terror when swinging an ax he breaks into the bathroom to kill his wife, and as he pokes his head through the shattered door says; “Here’s Johnny”. However, no comic relief will ever assuage such fear. Similarly Hitchcock’s terrifying shower scene in Psycho. Initially all we see are the outlines of a shadowy presence, until the all too human features of the murderer and his intentions become horrifyingly clear. Even in our beloved childhood story, “The Three Little Piggies” we find the intruder- this time in the form of a wolf at the door. It is fascinating to note that in The Shinning, immediately before he breaks down the door, Nicholson repeats the words of the wolf from the Little Piggy’s story, saying; “Little Piggies, Little Piggies, let me in, let me in. I will huff and I will puff and will blow your door down.”

Helping us to understand why these figures appear so violent and destructive, Erich Neumann explains that;
Repressed contents …are withdrawn from the control of consciousness and function independently of it… with disastrous results for both the individual and the collective. (Pg. 35) In repression, the excluded contents… lose their connection with the conscious system and become forgotten… become evil and destructive. (Pg 49)

It was the aftermath of the horrors of the Holocaust that allowed Jung to fully understand that even when we project our demons onto others, that these same…demons have not disappeared but have merely taken on another form; they have become unconscious psychic forces.

These terrifying intruders are psyche’s portrait of those cast off, unconscious contents. Freud taught us that the; “Return of the Repressed” and that “We repeat what we do not want to remember” represent ontological constants within the Psyche. Jung extended our understanding when he said, “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” Sartre’s “No Exit” reminds us that there is a reality we cannot escape and clinical practice teaches us anew each day of the consequences of our unconscious efforts to obliterate the internal reality and the Psyche. These processes of repression and denial cause so many lives to be ruined, families torn apart, and futures constrained by the stains of yesterday’s transgressions. Too many of these tortured days and years so easily become our tomorrows.

Perhaps now, as we are forced into isolation, we can turn our gaze inwards towards the psyche and the inner life of the soul. There may be no better time to stop the reiterating madness and admit to the ravages of denial, and learn to recognize the fragments of our past captured in the migration of the forgotten. And herein lies an opportunity not only to make a better life, but to learn about The Psyche. To know something of the ontological reality of this “antique soul” may allow us to do something to stem the tide of personal and collective madness. We do well to remember the inherent healing capacity of psyche and to recognize that;

The unconscious is a living psychic entity that (aims) not only at the restoration of the psychic equilibrium but at an advance towards wholeness.“(Pg. 17)

I hope you will join us for this complimentary presentation.
After the event, the talk will be available in Spanish, Russian and Italian.

Click Here To Register

Dr. Michael Conforti is a Jungian analyst and the Founder and Director of The Assisi Institute, and teaches at The C.G. Jung Institutes in Boston and New York. A pioneer in the field of matter-psyche studies, Dr. Conforti is actively investigating the workings of archetypal fields and the relationship between Jungian psychology and the New Sciences. He has presented his work to a wide range of national and international audiences, including the C.G. Jung Institute – Zurich and Jungian organizations in Australia, Canada, Colombia, Cyprus, Denmark, Ecuador, Italy, Russia, Switzerland and Venezuela. He is the author of Threshold Experiences: The Archetype of Beginnings (2007) and Field, Form and Fate: Patterns in Mind, Nature and Psyche (2002). His books have translated into Italian, Russian and a Spanish edition is nearing completion. His articles have appeared in Psychological Perspectives, San Francisco Jung Library Journal, Roundtable Press, World Futures: The Journal of General Evolution, and Spring Journal.

Dr. Conforti maintains a private practice in Mystic, CT and consults with individuals and corporations around the world. He provides his insights as a sought-after consultant to businesses, government institutions, and the film industry. He has served as script consultant on the films Pride and Glory and Elvis Anabelle and is currently working on a script for a new TV series. He has also been asked to consult on the application of field theory to the understanding and resolution of international border disputes. He was selected by The Club of Budapest and the University of Potsdam to be part of a 20 member international team of physicists, biologists, and dynamical systems theorists to examine the role and influence of informational fields. He is a recipient of the Vision Award presented by the Association for the Advancement of Psychoanalysis.

Report from the International Jungian Congress (IAAP)

IAAP Vienna 2019

Sarah Jackson, MFA, MA, LP

It is my pleasure to report that, after spending the last week in August in Vienna attending the Twenty-first IAAP conference, Depth Psychology and Jung’s legacy are alive and flourishing.

When I approached the front steps of the University of Vienna for the first time and saw the large banner announcing the conference, I felt a surprising burst of pride and excitement. Even more surprising was the fact that I continued to feel that way throughout the week, as did many of the participants I spoke with. It was the largest Congress to date, with 1400 Jungian analysts and trainees in attendance from all over the world.

The timely theme of the Congress — “Encountering the Other, Within Us, Between Us, and in the World”—  inspired a multitude of presentations. The plenary sessions each morning were both challenging and thoroughly engaging. The only problems  we faced were choosing from among the twelve or thirteen sessions going on simultaneously in each of the three afternoon breakout periods, and finding our way around the labyrinthine building.

There was a healthy amount of disagreement, some of it quite vocal, and on-going dialogue in multiple languages. Perhaps most heartening of all was the increased diversity, with participants and presenters from China, South Africa and Russia, as well as all over South and Central America,  Mexico, Canada, the US, the EU, Australia, New Zealand and Japan.  One of the most moving of the plenary sessions, for me, was a panel of White and Black South African analysts who compared traditional healing with depth psychology.
The Congress was a feast, and I think it would have pleased Jung to see all of us there in Vienna.

Four NYAAP analysts presented papers at the conference of the International Association for Analytical Psychology in Vienna this August: Les Stein, Sarah Jackson, Beth Darlington and Ilona Melker. Their papers were excellent, well-attended and well-received.

Les Stein: The clinical impact of urban terror on the self

“The constant, recurring stress of urban living has been exacerbated in past decades by opioid addiction, homelessness, family dysfunction, crime, widening income inequality, and displacement of populations, with resultant mental health issues manifested by increasing suicide rates and depression. The problems have reached the level where they are considered a form of trauma – “urban trauma”. When there is overt urban terror as well, the urban trauma adds to the destructive effect and yields “complex urban trauma” that is not easily treatable.

The definitions offered over time of the Jungian “Self” need to be rethought in order to find an effective treatment for complex urban trauma. Coming closer to Jung’s real view of the Self provides a possible method of dealing with the effects of terror attacks in urban areas.”

Sarah Jackson: The Otherness of Art

I shared a break-out session with Linda Carter, from the Pacifica Graduate Institute, and we had the honor to be introduced by Marian Dunlea, whose new book “Bodydreaming” [Routledge, 2019] was launched at the Congress. My presentation, entitled “Images of the Other in Visual Art”, was an informal discussion of a group of art objects, some depicting encounters with an Other or Otherness, and others which were in themselves so strange and alien that the endeavor to find their beauty and meaning provided kind of analogue to working with images in dreams.”

Beth Darlington–The Story of Cain: The Myth We Would Like to Forget

“The title of my presentation at the 2019 IAAP Congress in Vienna was “The Story of Cain: The Myth We Would Like to Forget.”  It focused on Cain’s question to God after killing his brother Abel, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”  Genesis does not provide an explicit answer to that question, but Cain’s exile and punishment implicitly suggest that the answer is “Yes.”  Our current social and political context demonstrates the relevance of Cain’s question to our own times, with hate crimes and numerous blatant attacks on our metaphorical brothers and sisters.  Lord Byron’s adaptation of Cain’s story in 1821 introduces narrative changes that make Cain’s individuation possible and enable us to understand the transformative power of compassion when we can face our guilt and learn from our mistakes.”

Ilona Melker: Tower on the Marsh–Dark Coniunctio as Other

“The factors that come together in the coniunctio are conceived as opposites, either confronting one another in enmity or attracting one another in love.” C.G. Jung  Mysterium Coniunctionis

We will consider when love is replaced by enmity and the coniunctio is pushed into the realms of anxiety and depression, activating the darkness within psyche; its nigredo. As Jung pointed out “the coniunctio can take more gruesome forms than the relatively harmless one depicted in the Rosarium.”

We look at the role of how familiar early traumas help activate the dark Dionysian bondage of pleasure-pain in sadomasochism. In this context we will consider a time in Christiana Morgan’s life  as well as some contemporary clinical material  from the presenter’s case material.”

 

NYAAP Member Les Stein’s New Book: Working with Mystical Experiences in Psychoanalysis

NYAAP member Les Stein has a new book out: Working with Mystical Experiences in Psychoanalysis: Opening to the Numinous (London: Routledge, 2019).

While we miss Les’s presence here in New York, we are excited to share news of his most recent book. Here is an excerpt from the book jacket:

“A mystical experience, no matter what else, is a subjective occurrence in the psyche. However, when it appears in the psychoanalytic consulting room, its origin, content, and meaning are unknowable. Yet it is there in the room, and it must be addressed. It is not a minor illusion but rather one that requires attention as its occurrence may lead to a profound alteration of consciousness and, as Carl Jung suggests, a cure for neurosis.

“Les interviewed twenty-nine mystics in order to understand the origin, progression, phasing, emotions, and individual variations of a mystical experience in order to make sense of how it should be addressed, the appropriate analytic attitude in the face of a mystery, the way to work with its content, and its psychological meaning. In doing so, he uncovered that there may be specific development markers that create a proclivity to be receptive to such an experience that has clinical significance for psychoanalysis.”

His book was reviewed by the Jungian analyst John Merchant in the forthcoming issue of the Journal of Analytical Psychology. Here are a few excerpts:

“This book is Stein’s third on mysticism, revealing his sustained and ongoing interest in mystical experience, its connections to analytical psychology and in what he sees as the real orientation of Jung to mysticism. Stein attempts to answer the question of ‘slippage’, that is, how to keep spiritual and/or mystical experiences alive in a patient’s analysis.  As such, it is a significant Jungian contribution to an understanding of mystical experience.”

“The Jungian theory Stein outlines, along with his own outworked experience in the consulting room (of which he gives examples), provide a helpful framework for clinicians. Whilst the appearance in time of a mystical experience is acknowledged as being a mystery, Stein  argues that the important analytic attitude is to be active rather meditative. Once it is determined that a patient is receptive to their mystical experience, it is then imperative to really engage with it and legitimate it by making its emotional impact the subject of analysis, rather than ‘over interpreting’ its content.”

“In terms of an individual’s ‘receptivity,’ Stein’s research led him to discover a common psychological background for those who have mystical experiences…. These findings are important for helping to place mystical experiences within an analytic understanding and alongside Stein’s discovery as to the best way analysts can work with mystical experiences in the consulting room (whether they adhere to a similar tradition or not) makes the usefulness of this book overwhelmingly self-evident.”

Leslie Stein

After completing his training at the C.G. Jung Institute of New York, Les moved to Sydney, Australia where he has a private practice.  He is also a member of the Australian New Zealand Society of Jungian Analysts and he is also a Training Analyst with the CG Jung Institute of Zurich. Les is the author of many other books, including Becoming Whole: Jung’s Equation for Realizing God (NY: Helios), and the Jungian allegory, The Journey of Adam Kadmon, A Novel. 

You can find his book at Amazon.

 

 

NYAAP Welcomes Sandy Drob as an Honorary Member

On June 2 NYAAP voted to accept Sanford Drob, Ph.D., as an Honorary Member of NYAAP.

Sandy has contributed to the field of analytical psychology as both teacher and author. Some of his contributions are manifest in three of his most recent books:

Kabbalistic Visions: C.G. Jung and Jewish Mysticism, (2010),

Reading the Red Book: An Interpretive Guide to C.G. Jung’s Liber Novus (2012)

Archetype of the Absolute: The Unity of Opposites in Mysticism, Philosophy and Psychology. (2018)

His recent opus, Archetype of the Absolute of which he spoke about at our on June 2nd 2019, was reviewed by our fellow NYAAP member Leslie Stein in the forthcoming issue of Jung Journal:

It takes a particular type of person, or rather a particular person, to write a complete work on this impossible subject that requires both psychological and philosophical expertise, as well as a willingness to undertake a mystical quest to approach a unitythe Archetype of the Absolute”—to contain the opposites In terms of expertise, Sanford Drob has the required unique combination of philosophy, psychology, and understanding of Jungian thought, as he holds PhDs in both philosophy and clinical psychology, has written extensively on Kabbalah, and is on the faculty of the C. G. Jung Institute of New York. The work, therefore, crosses seamlessly between psychology, philosophy, Jungian thought, and mysticism, and for that reason alone will become a classic, historical marker for Jungs notion of the coincidentia oppositorum.

Sandy taught a course on the Red Book at our Institute in 2015 using material from his book, Reading the Red Book: An Interpretive Guide to C.G. Jung’s Liber Novus, and recently completed a seminar at the C.G. Jung Foundation: The Master Archetype: Integrating the Opposites in Life, Thought and Psychotherapy, based on his more recently published book.

As a painter Sandy marshals the aesthetics and some of the techniques of the “old masters” and filters them through the spirit of contemporary experience, philosophy and theology. You can view some of his work at his website. 

In addition to being an artist, Sandy holds doctorates in philosophy from Boston University, and clinical psychology from Long Island University, and for many years served as the Senior Forensic Psychologist and Director of Psychological Assessment at Bellevue Hospital in New York City. He is currently on the Core Faculty of the doctoral program in Clinical Psychology of Fielding Graduate University, where he teaches classes in Humanistic/ Existential psychology, forensic psychology and psychological assessment.  He maintains an active practice in forensic psychology and psychological assessment in New York City.

Sandy’s warm personality is well known to many of us, and we are happy to welcome him to the NYAAP community.

NYAAP Welcomes Hilda Seidman as a New Member

On Sunday, June 2 NYAAP voted unanimously to welcome Hilda Seidman, M.F.A., L.P., as a new member. Hilda is a graduate of the C.G. Jung Institute of New York, and has a private practice on Fifth Avenue in midtown Manhattan.

Her training thesis was entitled Redeeming the Feminine Divine: Encountering Gnostic Sophia, a copy of which is available in the Kristine Mann Library. This subject also led her to receive The Kristrine Mann Research Award. She presented the results of her research in a paper entitled The Anamnesis of Sophia

She recently gave a talk entitled Silence  for the C.G. Jung Foundation as well as teaching an advanced seminar expanding and exploring the Gnostic influence on Jungian psychoanalytic theory.

She holds a Master’s degree in Fine Arts from the University of Washington’s Professional Actors’ Training Program. Her strong background in acting and education have both served as excellent preparation to do deep, sensitive Jungian analytic work. We’re very happy to have her join us. 

Jung Institute Hosts Chinese Analysts and Students

Jung Institute

The C. G. Jung Institute of New York, the training institute of the New York Association for Analytical Psychology, is known internationally for its commitment to excellence.

In an effort to enrich both Americans and Chinese, the Institute hosted 25 students from the People’s Republic of China led by their professor Gao Lan Shen on April 14, 2019. The event was organized  Jungian Analyst, Beth Darlington. In the morning, Dr. Darlington guided the group to the Kristine Mann Library where they were given a tour by the librarian Lorna Peachin. They then went to the Archive for Research in Archetypal Symbolism (ARAS) for a tour by curator Ami Ronnberg. In the afternoon, the group watched a film called Women in China: Up Against the Wall, by Jungian Analyst Laurie Schapira. And Gary Trosclair,  president of the New York Association for Analytic Psychology (NYAAP) and jazz musician, presented a paper on the Dionysian Foundations of Jazz.  Analysts-in-training, studying the expressive therapeutic technique known as sand tray with Ilona Melker, joined the group to hear Dr. Shen discuss her experience of working with the victims of the 2008 earthquake in Szechuan.

Darth Vader, The Need to Control, and The Goddess That Became a Disease

goddess that became a disease

Jungian analyst and NYAAP President Gary Trosclair weaves together Jung’s ideas, contemporary trends, and both ancient and modern mythology to offer a perspective on our need to control. His essay was originally posted at www.thehealthycompulsive.com.


Carl Jung famously wrote that the gods have become diseases. What he meant was that because we no longer consciously acknowledge the powerful forces we used to call gods and goddesses, they’ve gone underground and manifest in our physical and mental ailments. However fantastic they might seem, they are still forces to be reckoned with.

Such is certainly the case with the Greek goddess Ananke.

Who?

My point exactly. We don’t recognize her because she doesn’t fit in with the need to control.

Ananke: Goddess of Fate, Inevitability and Compulsion

The ancient Greeks believed in the force of fate, inevitability and compulsion.  They personified this force as a goddess stronger than all other forces and called her Necessity, or Ananke. We can’t override her with personal control, no matter how hard we try.

Ananke determines aspects of the world outside of us and inside of us. The outer issues are more obvious: death, illness, natural disasters, obligations, traffic, subway delays, clueless people, and recalcitrant children.

When we try to resist these inevitable aspects of outer life, Ananke takes over our inner life too: our need to control the uncontrollable makes us compulsive in the worst sense, so much so that we actually develop an illness.
The need to control

Our Modern Disease: OCPD, Compulsive Personality, and The Need To Control

We don’t much like Ananke these days. We modern folk like to believe that that we control everything. This is particularly true in American culture, and even more true of people who are unhealthily compulsive, those who are especially and infamously controlling. They like to think that if they work, plan, obsess, rush, harangue or tailgate enough they can make things happen in the outer world the way they should happen. Mixed results ensue, quite simply because we can’t control everything.

Those who ignore Ananke, those who cannot accept that some things are out of their control and try to take control,  end up losing control to control. They become compulsive in their efforts to deny her. They think they’re driving, but they are driven by Ananke. Without realizing it they try to become her.

This is how the goddess becomes a disease.

The medical term for this disease is obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD). OCPD is the most frequently occurring of the ten personality disorders listed in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. There are many reasons why people develop OCPD, but I believe that the most common is that natural and healthy tendencies to be driven and hardworking are hijacked to avoid the feelings that would otherwise come with acknowledging limits.

Anakin Skywalker denies Ananke and becomes Darth VaderImage result for anakin skywalker darth vader

I can think of no better example of trying to shun Ananke than the characters from Star Wars young Anakin Skywalker and the sinister adult he becomes, Darth Vader. Star Wars is our contemporary mythology. It lays bare our culture’s attempts to control. If you didn’t see the prequels you might not know what’s behind all this.

At 6 years old Anakin Skywalker is a very promising young boy, ambitious and talented to an extreme. He’s recruited to be a Jedi warrior, and has to leave his home and his mother. Later, after he’s been away training for some years, his mother is captured and tortured. He tries to rescue her but arrives just in time to see her die.

Devastated that he couldn’t save her, he takes his skills to the dark side, eventually becoming Darth Vader–with the promise that he will be able to keep his wife from ever dying. He doesn’t mourn the loss of his mother and his limitations, but instead tries to take control over the world. He’ll stop at nothing to do so. He ends up indirectly bringing about the very thing he fears. His wife dies just after giving birth. Some say she died as the result of a broken heart from Anakin turning to the dark side.

This transformation is not unusual for people who are born talented and Driven. Their skills are hijacked to try to cope with their fears of facing into disturbing feelings.

Genes, Compulsion and Fate

Ananke rules more of our Fate than just death. She also determines the biological limitations of life, the needs that all humans have, including the need to eat, sleep, drink and procreate.

It also includes personality traits specific to you, who you are naturally, your strengths and calling, which is partially the result of your genes. No matter how sincere your parents were when they told you that you could be anything you wanted to be, they were wrong. For instance, people who are naturally compulsive, driven, perfectionistic and conscientious will never become laid back. And that can be a good thing, if you recognize it and work with it. 

Befriending Ananke: Working with Compulsion

The Greeks personified forces such as Ananke so that they could recognize and come to terms with them. Naming something limits its power. Once you identify such a force, you know who or what you’re dealing with, and you can make the necessary accommodations. The standard response in their time was to burn incense, slaughter a lamb, or make some other sort of sacrifice to save their soul from an ignoble fate. These rituals might seem ridiculous to us today, but they fostered an attitude of acceptance that is psychologically adaptive.

We have other options now. If we can acknowledge that we are not completely free, we actually become freer to deal with the limitations of both the outer world and the inner world in a more mindful and constructive way. You can’t defy death, even with the will and courage of a Jedi, but you can slow down enough to savor your life and your loved ones. You can’t force yourself or anyone else to do everything exactly the way you think it should be done, but you can do your best to live with integrity and meaning.

And if you’re constitutionally Driven, you do need to work, produce, create and fix—but you don’t have to go crazy doing it. Recognizing Ananke can save you a lot of trouble: The next time you feel yourself compelled to try to achieve the impossible (be perfect, change other people, or control the future), recognize that there is much that’s out of your control and face the feelings that you’ve been trying to avoid by being so controlling.

None of this is to say that we should roll over and give up or not stand up for ourselves or what we believe is right. We do have some control and can make the world a better place. But when we see our limits, we are better prepared to accomplish what is within our control.

Originally posted at www.thehealthycompulsive.com.

Psychoanalysis in the Post-Truth Era, by Alexandra Krithades, M.A., L.P.

Drawing by Beth Thielen, from the book “Country Gone Missing: Nightmares in the Time of Trump”, 2018. Crowd sourced nightmares illustrated by Beth Thielen and edited by Louise Steinman. For information go to: countrygonemissing.com Proceeds to benefit Swing Left. This drawing is an illustration of the following dream: "We are getting rid of Trump bit by bit by killing him with kindness. I am kneeling in front of him, beseeching him, saying, “It’s ok. Relax. Just calmly put down the country and we’ll take care of it all.” Like he was pointing a gun at me. My kindness is like taking slivers of him bit by bit and placing them in folded sheets of waxed paper. Then the process allows me to take longer square blocks of him by chanting Om.”

In this post Alexandra Krithades, NYAAP member and President of the C.G. Jung Institute of New York, describes the role that she feels psychoanalysis needs to play in helping clients deal with the impact of dramatic social change, and the role that psychoanalysts themselves must play in this era. Her essay was originally posted at TherapyRoute.com. 

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November 8, 2016 was not simply an election in which Donald Trump won and Hillary Clinton lost.

 

It brought a paradigm shift to the United States and the world.

 

This election brought to power, in the most powerful nation of the world,  a man who lies with facility,  bullies others,  mocks disabled people,  is a racist to his core, is likely a serial sex offender,  attacks the free press, and is financially corrupt.

 

One might ask: surely other American presidents have been liars,  for example, Richard Nixon; and others as well must have committed acts of malfeasance in various forms. So why am I and many others so distressed by his election to the presidency?
However,
no other politician in recent modern history has systematically attacked the very bases of liberal democracy:

 

He has attacked the free press ruthlessly and relentlessly. He labels the press ‘fake news, the enemy of the people.’ After a particularly virulent attack on the press by Trump,  UN experts David Kaye and Edison Lanza of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights called the attacks ‘strategic’  and said they undermined press freedom and ‘verifiable facts’. Further Mr. Kaye and Mr. Lanza said the president’s assaults ‘ increase the risk of journalists being targeted with violence: and ‘are designed to undermine confidence in reporting.” (BBC News 8/2/18)

 

Without a free press, democracy dies.

 

Both the New York Times and the Washington Post keep logs of Trump’s lies that are published regularly.  Dismayingly, his endless lies, scandals and crises do not seem to tarnish him with his base.

 

A new conspiracy theory-based organization “Qanon’ has sprung up supporting him and appearing at his rallies.

 

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz, in an article on 10/8/17 described how the use of the phrase ‘lying press’ ( “Lugenpresse”) was used by the Nazis and also during the 2014 ultra right anti-immigrant movement in Germany.  It notes how this phrase has become a staple of Trump’s rhetoric. ( Haaretz, 10/8/17)

 

He has lowered the level of public discourse by destroying ordinary civility and respect in his interactions with other leaders in the world and with ordinary citizens. Without respectful dialogue, democracy is seriously weakened.  Issues cannot be discussed; citizens cannot learn from each others’ perspective and disagree respectfully.

 

He tweets personal attacks and insults at individuals who have challenged him, or who represent different values, thus debasing and coarsening public discourse repeatedly.

 

Donald Trump insulted and degraded a gold star family who had lost a son in Afghanistan because they spoke against him at Hillary Clinton’s nomination convention.  In doing so, he trampled on the most honoured aspect of public life: voluntary military service that results in death.

 

He has boasted about sexually assaulting women and getting away with it. Before the coarsening of public discourse that he has accelerated, a public apology on national television would have been required by anyone bearing office in the administration.

 

He has appointed to his cabinet a secretary of education who knows nothing about public education, and works to undermine public education  by supporting charter schools, (privatized for-profit organizations); a secretary for Housing and Urban development who has no understanding or desire to improve public housing; a secretary to the EPA who is doing everything he can to undo the protections of the environment put into place over the last 40 years at a pivotal time for our increasingly fragile environment.

 

He has unilaterally walked away from the Paris Accords on climate change, and picked fights with the US’ neighbours, Canada and Mexico. He walked away unilaterally from the nuclear treaty with Iran.  He has insulted Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany, and Justin Trudeau, the prime minister of Canada. He has expressed hostile opinions about NATO, an institution that was born from the wreckage of World War II, that has served to bind liberal western democracies together in a mutual protection pact.

 

He has praised and befriended murderous dictators, like Putin, Duterte, and Kim Jung-un.

 

He has left unfilled countless diplomatic positions with the intent of weakening the institution of the US state department.  As of spring 2018, 38 ambassadorial positions remained unfilled.

 

Without skilful, experienced diplomats, foreign policy becomes the tool of a demagogic leader who brags that he never reads.   This further weakens the cause of democracy.

 

All of these actions and behaviours have created an environment of ‘post-truth’, where there is no longer an agreed upon reality in which public discourse can occur.

 

How has this deliberate assault on truth and the core values of liberal democracy affected those in psychoanalytic treatment and those who practice psychoanalysis?

 

I am a Jungian analyst practising in New York City. I remember the atmosphere on the streets and coffee shops and subways the morning after the election.  There was a stunned mournful disbelieving silence.  A  collective depression was already beginning to set in.

 

The clients I saw that day were in profound dismay and disbelief.  A sense of disorientation, betrayal, and loss was evident in all of them. This was not just a reaction to one’s preferred candidate losing.

 

The analytic candidates in a  class I taught at a psychoanalytic institute that semester were tearful, hopeless, in despair.

 

It was for most, a painful, dawning perception of a paradigm shift  of enormous proportion in our nation’s agreed upon sense of reality.  We as a nation could no longer hold to a collective definition of ‘truth’ and ‘reality.’

 

For patients who come  to therapy, their quest for truth,  the need to understand who they really are, who their family was, what really happened in their childhood, as well as understanding more truthfully their current relationships and connection to the outer world, are essential to establishing a sense of wholeness and centeredness as they move beyond the suffering imposed on them by circumstances to which they had to adapt as powerless youngsters.  Finding one’s own moral centre and values is a crucial dimension of deep therapeutic work.

 

The contrast with the behaviour and demeanour of the most recent presidents is stark.  Barack Obama was a paragon of dignity and self-discipline, even in the face of extreme provocation, for example, when Trump insisted he was not a natural born American. George W. Bush was self-disciplined in public, was not a racist, did not scapegoat others, and held himself to an appropriate standard of behaviour.

 

To therapy patients, having our president use hate speech, endorse the hateful acts of others ( for example, when neo-Nazi/white supremacists marched in  Charlottesville, resulting in the killing of one counter-demonstrator, President Trump said there were ‘fine people on both sides.’),  scapegoat Mexicans, Muslims, refugees, disabled people, even  US Senator John McCain for having been taken as a prisoner of war, created in this already emotionally vulnerable population an increased sense of vulnerability and bewilderment.  Our nation’s moral tone was being set by a ‘reality’ TV star, with no apparent moral compass; not someone who had worked in government, law or public service.

 

Most psychotherapy patients have experienced marginalization in one form or another in their lives.  Perhaps in their family of origin, not living up to expectations, or not conforming to the family’s collective values, or having a non-heteronormative sexuality, these individuals were now reliving a sense of marginalization in their nation.  Being a member of an ethnic minority now meant being a target for the President’s hate and ridicule.  Women, in particular, felt an increased sense of vulnerability, given the despicable sexism and degrading attitude of the president toward women.

 

For patients of Jewish background, the similarity of Trump’s statements to  Nazi rhetoric was immediately obvious, and anxiety provoking.

 

His actions are antithetical not only to the values of liberal democracy but also to the values of any depth analysis and psychotherapy in general.  We strive to understand and integrate our aggression, not project it and then act it out.  We work to understand our urge to scapegoat others as a defence against feelings of inferiority.  We strive to develop and/or increase our capacity for compassion for those who have injured us or frighten us, or who are powerless, by understanding as well the place in ourselves that feels powerless and unvalued.  We work to understand and rein in our narcissistic tendencies, not enact them as Trump does.

 

Several patients sought reassurance from me that things will be alright; that it is not as bad as it seems.  Others, though few, engaged in a willful, angry, almost contemptuous, ‘what’s all the fuss about?’ posture as a defence against the anxiety beneath their surface persona presentation of bravado and calm.

 

Some patients with a history of major depression decompensated and needed an increase or change of their medications.  Many who previously did not suffer from insomnia, reported sleeping difficulties.
Patients with a multi-generational history of trauma expressed fear that the US would devolve into civil war.  That Jews, or the wealthy, would be targeted by Trump’s ‘base’, i.e. his poorly educated, blue collar, white male supporters.

 

Most clinicians I spoke with noted an increase in somatic symptomatology, amongst their patients and themselves:  digestive disturbances, headaches, back and neck pain, insomnia, nightmares. A New York City dermatologist reported to me an increase in patients who did not previously suffer from trichotillomania, pulling out their hair.

 

Trump appears frequently in the dreams of patients as a threat, for example, engaging in rapacious sex acts;  destroying a beloved ancestral home with bulldozers;  invading a home while others are asleep;  setting fire to a nearby landscape that had been lovingly tended. Other disturbing images that have increased in peoples’ dreams since his election include wildfires destroying forests; the dreamer floating out at sea without a lifejacket, far from shore; buffalo herds trampling individuals on an open plain.

 

Jungian analysts strive to understand dream figures and imagery as aspects of the dreamer’s inner life that require understanding and integration. However, in these extraordinary times, that orientation is not sufficient. As an analyst, I have had to acknowledge the objective level of threat and disturbance that exists in the outer reality because of who Trump is and how he behaves.

 

Maintaining one’s objectivity as an analyst is more challenging now than ever.  It is tempting to allow an analytic session to become a mutual sharing of dismay and outrage at the state of how things are unfolding.

 

There is a counter transferential longing to reassure the patient that things are not as bad as they experience them to be. Perhaps this reflects our own wish to reassure ourselves that things are not as bad as we perceive them to be. But it is not possible or appropriate to be reassuring.  I have found myself challenged to strike a delicate balance between not being reassuring, nor stoking the fear or anxiety either while maintaining a reflective analytic stance.

 

I have found that I must work on my cultural assumptions as an American, for example, that the United States would never become a dictatorship: that our institutions are too strong; that racism in the US has been steadily on its way out since the civil rights movement of the 1960’s.  To retreat to these comforting assumptions is to deny my own anxiety, and not face what that anxiety is trying to convey to me and to those with whom I work.

 

I am increasingly aware that as analysts in this ‘post-truth’ era, we may need to do additional inner work on ourselves, regarding the effect that external reality has upon us. We need to understand and acknowledge that while many of our fears are realistic and grounded in our accurate perceptions of external reality, we need to guard against magnifying those fears in our clients.

 

As individuals with a humanitarian orientation, I believe we must also become activists if we are not already.  There is a worldwide swing to the far right, with xenophobia, racism, sexism on the rise everywhere.

 

We have a moral obligation to resist this destructive trend.  We cannot be only in our consulting room.  In a talk on 2/28/18 in New York City, Jessica Benjamin, an esteemed psychoanalyst who has made large contributions to the field,  stated that in these times all therapists and psychoanalysts must become activists.

 

And so we must go on, despite these difficult times, actively affirming our democratic, humanitarian values, and also remaining committed to the work of psychoanalysis, which values the depth experience and dignity of every individual.

 

Alexandra Krithades, M.A., LP, is a Jungian analyst in private practice for over thirty-five years in Greenwich Village, New York, and Wilton, Connecticut.  She is a graduate of the C.G. Jung Institute of New York, and the Graduate Faculty of the New School, in New York. She is currently President of the Board of the CG Jung Institute of New York and also teaches and supervises there.  

 

She has taught at the C.G. Jung Foundation, the Temenos Institute in Connecticut, Vassar College, and Jung on the Hudson.  Her subjects have included Creation Mythology, Greek Mythology, myth and symbol in dream interpretation, and basic concepts of Jung’s psychology. She presented a paper on the temenos of peer group supervision, together with Rosalind Winter, MSW, and John Gosling, M.D. at the National Conference for Jungian Analysts in Santa Monica, Ca. in January 2001. She has presented papers on Trauma and Transformation at the IAAP conference in Essex, UK, July 5, 2002, and at the Oresteia at SAAJA in Capetown, SA in 2009. She published a paper on a Death Foreshadowed in Quadrant  July 2013.

 

Originally published at www.TherapyRoute.com

 

Akrithades@gmail.com