Problems in Living versus Individuation

October 2009

The bulk of my blog today is a direct quote from another blogger… Please refer to the Spiritual Emergency Blog- http://spiritualemergency.blogspot.com/

It looks like an excellent source…

“… I had to recall what I had learned in my own analysis when I had been training, shortly after I had begun to work with my first cases under supervision. I was, like all neophytes, exceedingly eager to achieve a successful outcome and I tended to become quite active in leading, rather than gently guiding the process.

My training analyst had gently tried to restrain me, but when that failed she shocked me one day by saying, “You are not supposed to want the patient to get well!”

At first, I could not quite believe this, for I surely did not understand her meaning. But gradually as it sank in I was able to see that if I acted out of my desire to heal the patient, I was setting myself up as the miracle worker. I would be doing it for my own satisfaction, for the joy of success, and possibly, for the approval of my training analyst. My own needs would be in the foreground then, and the patient’s needs would revert to the secondary position. Besides, the possibility for healing lies in the psyche of the patient, the place where the disunion or split exists.

The psyche, as Jung has taught, is a self-regulating system, containing within it all the elements which are necessary both to produce a neurosis and to transform the neurosis into a constructively functioning attitude. If I, as analyst, impose my concepts of the direction into which the outcome should be, I am doing violence to the potential unity of the patient’s psyche.

My task is to use myself as a vehicle for clarifying the patient’s dilemmas and for helping her learn to interpret her unconscious production. My task is not to contaminate the analysis with my own problems. And it is for this reason that I constantly need to be aware of my own needs and my own biases.”

As much as this sounds right to me theoretically I struggle with it in practice. In recent years I have studied motivational interviewing… this approach is deeply rooted in client centered (Rogerian) theory and also suggests that the client knows what is best for them and must be the “driver” in any meaningful personal change.

Perhaps we must differentiate between problems in living and individuation. People come to counselors by and large to address problems in living. These can be principally “biologically” based (e.g. schizophrenia, certain depressions, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder)… or, they can be principally socially/environmentally based (marital problems, drug-alcohol abuse, work problems).

Imagine someone with a broken toe going to a doctor who tells them that they have the answer within and must come up with their own treatment plan… this is how problems in living strike me… they are like illnesses. The therapist/counselor, like a doctor, should be wise and directive.

Individuation, soul issues, is another story. In the case of the formation of the soul it is likely that the trail guide must be the individual and the therapist/counselor/analyst can only serve as a co-pilot of sorts.

Where this all gets a bit tricky is that many problems in living can have deep roots in individuation/soul issues…

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