Welcome to Psychotherapy & Culture

Welcome to what I hope will be an informative, stimulating, and possibly even provocative series of exchanges about the relationship between psychotherapy and culture. My intention is to provide background to this topic, along with reviews of books, films, and other representations of the way psychotherapy impacts culture and culture – in turn- impacts psychotherapy – particularly in the U.S. I will be including some of my own experiences as both an anthropologist and a psychotherapist. I will also be including some interviews I have done with a number of leading psychotherapists throughout the world. I will be investigating and interrogating a variety of different psychotherapy “tribes” and “lineages”, such as psychoanalysis , cognitive-behavioral therapy, family therapy, Jungian depth psychotherapy, humanistic and existential psychotherapy, as well as a number of indigenous therapies in other cultures. I invite you to comment on my posts. I look forward to exchanging ideas with you.

Robert McAndrews, Ph.D.



I will be posting occasional reviews of books, articles, films and television programs about psychotherapy. These reviews will be in random order and not in time sequence – in other words, some reviews will be about books from many years ago, while others will be very current. An example of a current review will be of the book by Catherine Clay (2016), “Labyrinths: Emma Jung, Her Marriage to Carl, and the Early Years of Psychoanalysis”.



During the last 25 years I have interviewed more than forty leading psychotherapists around the world. I will be sharing parts of these interviews along with some of my commentary. I contacted each therapist ahead of my arrival for the interview with a summary of the three essential questions I would be asking them. So they were somewhat prepared in advance with the direction  the interview might take. Of course there were follow-up questions and some of my interviews were more like dialogues or conversations than straight interviews. The three essential questions were: 1) What were your background influences in your decision to become a psychotherapist and develop your particular approaches and contributions to psychotherapy?

2) How would you describe the distinctions between what you have developed and written about from any other approaches to psychotherapy?

3) What do you anticipate your legacy to be? How might your work be continued and who might be your heirs? Also, what do you believe will be the future of psychotherapy?

I have included in this post a list of the therapist I interviewed. I will share parts of the interviews in future posts.

Voices of the Elders in Psychotherapy


Strangers to Ourselves (Part Two)

Naomi is a black woman from Minnesota who threw her two children and herself off of a bridge in a suicide attempt in 2003. She and one of her children were rescued, but the other child drowned. Naomi was convicted of manslaughter and spent sixteen years in prison. This is a story of race, class, marginalization, psychosis.

Aviv provides plenty of family and socio-cultural background for a deep understanding of the contexts within which Naomi’s mental health assessment and treatment approaches impacted Naomi, but also highlights the types of biases that are likely built into our mental health and criminal justice systems.

Naomi was caught in a kind of double bind because her behavioral manifestations of psychosis also critiqued racial bias in society. Her delusions seemed to contain social-cultural truths. Aviv explains that “Minnesota determines whether a defendant qualifies as insane by using the M’Naughten Rule, a standard established in the United Kingdom in 1843, that requires that ‘the accused was laboring under such a defect or reason, from disease of the mind, as not to know the nature and quality of the act he was doing, or if he did know it, that he did not know that what he was doing was wrong.” (p.148) “When Naomi was evaluated at the Minnesota Security Hospital, two doctors concluded that she did not meet the requirements for the M’Naughten defense. Her delusions, they noted, stemmed from astute observations about the society in which she lived. She told the doctors, ‘when the framers of the Constitution were signing the document, they told a Black person, ‘Hey nigger, go get a pen’. On the bridge she said she had felt terrified for her children, because she knew ‘their life would be filled with inferiority, indifference, and ridicule.’ She explained that ‘I did not want them to die. I just wanted them to live better.'” (p.149)

Aviv says, “the evaluators seemed distracted by the truth of her sociological insights. Delusions are not spun from pure fantasy. It would be impossible to separate Bapu’s desire to wed Krishna from her dismay over the way that wives in traditional Indian households were treated; or Ray’s obsession with avenging his failed life and career, his fall from grace, from his expectation that white educated men should not have to contend with such a fate. Naomi’s psychosis drew from reality, too, but her doctors seemed to expect that delusions couldn’t on some level make sense.” (p.150)

The role that race and class may play in psychotic experiences is rarely considered. Revisiting my proposed systems approach to understanding the etiology of schizophrenia, as described in my post, “Back to Schizophrenia Part III”, the diathesis-stress model, which may take the form of genetic, psychological, biological, and situational factors which set up predispositional vulnerabilities, I would add race, class and gender as possible factors. So, in addition to other predispositional vulnerabilities, Naomi was a poor, Black woman.

Aviv says, “Mental-health institutions were not designed to address the kinds of ailments that arise from being marginalized or oppressed for generations. Psychotherapy has rarely been ‘a useful place of healing for African Americans’ wrote the scholar bell hooks. For a black patient to reveal her fears and fantasies to a therapist, trained in a field that has been dominated by middle-class white people, requires a level of trust that hasn’t typically been earned.” (p.130) Aviv says that “Black Americans are systematically underrated for pain, as compared with white patients” and “Their suffering is naturalized, as if they were built for it, a myth with a long history in this country.” She quotes Helen Hansen, a psychiatrist/anthropologist at UCLA, ‘it is woven into the fabric of this country that Black womens’ role is to do the work, to do the suffering, so why would we-the mainstream mental-health field-be chasing them down and asking, Can I treat you for your sadness.'”(pgs.130-131)

Aviv also discusses the historical “idea that emancipation damaged the Black psyche”. “Like the Parisis, the group of Indians thought to have assimilated British colonialism too abruptly, their minds, it was said, were buckling under the shock of transition” (p.136) This self-serving notion obviously presumes that Black people can’t handle being freed and civilized too quickly.

For Naomi, the interplay between social-cultural biases and individual personal suffering created a kind of dead end and escaping with her children by jumping off a bridge seemed her only option.

Laura has a very different background from Naomi. She grew up in a wealthy Greenwich, Connecticut community. She was a high performer in everything she engaged in. Laura had been diagnosed with Bi-polar Personality Disorder and then Borderline Personality Disorder. She was medicated for both of these. At one point Laura was prescribed Naltrexone to block the craving for alcohol, but she was also already taking Effexor (an antidepressant), Lamacal, Seroquel, Amblify, Ativan, Lithium, and Synthroid, a medication to treat hyperthyroidism, a side effect of Lithium. One of the central issues in Aviv’s report about Laura is the possible distinction between a “medicated self” and a “baseline self” (if there is such a thing). Laura was so sedated that she was sleeping fourteen hours a day and feeling dis-connected from what she felt was her “real self ” so she decided to “de-medicate”. Aviv discusses this along with her own continuing use of Lexipro. Laura has continued to manage her symptoms without medication , while Aviv manages her own with the aid of Lexipro.

From the research I have been reading there is no one-size-fits-all approach to medicating or not medicating for various mental illnesses. I personally question whether we can realistically identify a so-called “baseline self”, though most sources do describe what a “medicated self” experience is like. Laura was obviously over-medicated and felt disconnected from her previously non-medicated self. There are certain medications, such as Lithium, which have, in the past, been over prescribed and even abused. It is well known that Lithium was widely used in mental institutions, ostensively to mute symptoms, but to essentially manage and control patients by pacifying them. Yet there is a danger in not judiciously using helpful medications, along with psychotherapy to ameliorate serious mental illnesses.

Hava was the young teen who Aviv had formed an attachment to when she was in the hospital at age 6 for anorexia. As an “Afterword”, Aviv tracks down Hava’s father only to find that Hava had recently died. Aviv uses this afterward to tell more of Hava’s story and to return to her own reflections about anorexia. Aviv learned from Hava’s journals and from her father, David, that Hava had been hospitalized multiple times and was even in a coma after a suicide attempt. She had essentially run out of money and options and ended up living with her father, who was a physician, for twelve years. Hava wrote “I suppose I am one of those people that thoroughly understands myself yet I am a stranger to myself”. (p.233)This nuanced reflection, from which Aviv gets the title of her book, highlights the complicated experiences of identity and mental illness, which Aviv has so astutely represented throughout her book. In puzzling over what may have distinguished Aviv from Hava in how anorexia affected them, Aviv refers to what Louise Gluck, who was anorexic, wrote: “‘The tragedy of anorexia seems to me that its intent is not self destructive, though its outcome often is. Its intent is to construct, in the only way possible when means are so limited, a plausible self'” So Hava constructed her “plausible self” as the dependent anorexic, while Aviv says, “on these terms, perhaps my experience with the illness could be viewed as a success. After I left the hospital, my parents were a little afraid of me. They deferred to my opinions, and everyone established clearer boundaries. At the same time I was given latitude to behave as oddly as I pleased. I never felt stuck in a particular story that others had created for me. I had the freedom to get bored of my behavior and to move on.” (pgs. 229-230) I suspect there is more to the reasons the outcomes for Hava and Aviv have been so different, but their age differences while in the hospital and the ways their significant parental figures treated them once they were released must have played an important role.

One of the beauties of Aviv’s book is that there is no easy summary of the stories she has told or issues she has raised. We are currently burdened by an avalanche of psychological diagnostic and self-help literature , most with attempts to simplify and offer solutions for various mental illnesses. My own research indicates the tangled web of personal, social, cultural, institutional, medical contexts within which we must all navigate in identifying and working through mental disturbances. Rachel Aviv illuminates this tangled web.

Strangers to Ourselves:Unsettled Minds and the Stories that Made Us (2022) – Rachel Aviv (Review)

Rachel Aviv’s new book is about mental illness and all the messy notions of stigma, the impact of race, cultural prejudices about women, and psychoanalytic vs medicalized psychiatry. Aviv comes close to what my blog is all about: the relationship between psychotherapy and culture. I may be returning to some of her chapters after this post since she has covered some of the ground I covered in my research in India and with the Washington School of Interpersonal Psychoanalysis practiced at Chestnut Lodge by Harry Stack Sullivan, Freida Fromm-Reichman, and Otto Will (I wrote about this in my post “Back to Schizophrenia”).

Aviv tells the stories of five individuals, Ray, Bapu, Naomi, Laura, and Hava, in addition to herself, each of whom has a different set of diagnosed mental illnesses and through each, Aviv explores various critical social, cultural, medical, ethical issues.

Aviv approaches her research much as an anthropologist would, by spending time within social and cultural contexts of the protagonists of her stories. Her work is in the mold of Katherine Boo’s “Behind the Beautiful Forevers” (about slum life in Mumbai) and Anne Fadiman’s “When the Spirit Catches you, You Fall Down.” (about a Hmong family and their interface with the health care system in Merced, California), both of which I have used in ethnography courses because of their brilliant ethnographic research but also their engaging story telling.

Aviv begins with the story of herself being diagnosed with anorexia and briefly hospitalized at the age of six. The issue of how anyone could have anorexia at age six opens into an inquiry of the entire diagnostic enterprise in psychotherapy. She questions whether she had anorexia, though she had refused to eat for enough time to frighten her parents and psychiatrists. This experience acts as stimulus for her ongoing inquiry into what constitutes mental disturbance and how does the psychiatric and psychotherapeutic profession identify, diagnose and treat mental illnesses. What is the interplay between cultural context and situation and mental illness?

Aviv states in her introduction “At times I contemplated devoting the entire book to each life I have written about here, but I wanted to emphasize the diversity of experiences of mental illness, the fact that, when questions are examined from different angels, the answers continually change.” (p.25). This approach distinguishes Aviv’s book from most of the current literature in the mental health field. Though she devotes a chapter to each of the people’s stories, these individual stories provide avenues for Aviv’s investigation of the various complicated issues around the entire mental health enterprise. She summarizes what each story investigates:

” The book begins by telling the story of a man torn between the twentieth century’s dominant explanations for mental distress – the psychodynamic and the biochemical. The rest of the chapters move beyond these two prevailing frameworks: one character tries to understand who she is in relation to her guru and gods; another is reckoning with her country’s racist history and how it has shaped her mind; a third has been so defined by psychiatric concepts that she doesn’t know how to explain her suffering on its own terms.” (p.26)

I will summarize the issues as Aviv has presented them via each person’s story and comment on these issues.

Ray is a man who was diagnosed with melancholia or depression. After years of mostly psychoanalytic treatment at Chestnut Lodge, which was in Rockville, Maryland, Ray sued the establishment in 1982 for failure to cure him. Aviv’s reporting about the history of Chestnut Lodge and the psychoanalytic approach of Harry Stack-Sullivan, Freida Fromm-Reichman, and other psychiatrists at Chestnut Lodge is fair and accurate, yet she accepts uncritically the review from Thomas McGlashan’s 1984 meta analysis of case records from Chestnut Lodge, wherein he judged that psychotherapy was ineffective for schizophrenia. He famously stated, “the data are in and the experiment failed.” I challenged this assessment in my post on “Back to Schizophrenia”. McGlashan’s own commitment to the use of psychiatric medications, no doubt influenced his interpretation of the cases he studied. Also, it has always been extremely difficult to judge the relative success of psychoanalytic treatments, since they involve profound unsettling changes and possible personality transformations. As I reported in my earlier post, the treatment approach at Chestnut Lodge was distinct from most other treatment facilities in that people with psychotic symptoms were treated humanely, with respect. Psychoanalysts at Chestnut Lodge believed that listening to patients’ struggles and concerns and helping them navigate their ways of interpreting their being in the world would be more effective than alternative approaches, particularly using psychopharmaceuticals, which until settling Ray’s lawsuit, were rarely used. After years at Chestnut Lodge, Ray left and began a treatment process with psychiatric medications. He claimed that these medications worked for him, while the psychoanalytic treatment at Chestnut Lodge did not. I suspect that he was helped by his treatment at Chestnut Lodge, but because of narcissistic behavior patterns, he did not acknowledge how he was helped and needed to blame someone for his ongoing depression and inability to form healthy relationships. Perhaps these issues would have been better resolved had he stayed in treatment at Chestnut Lodge. As a result of this lawsuit, the psychiatrists at Chestnut Lodge were forced to begin using anti-psychotic medications. While Ray seemed to improve in some respects as a result of his medications, he continued to manifest obvious symptoms of depression, loneliness, anger towards his father, inability to maintain healthy relationships with others, and aspects of narcissistic personality disorder (not mentioned by Aviv). He could not stop blaming his time at Chestnut Lodge for all of his behavior problems.

Bapu was a woman from Chennai, India. Her story, as related by Aviv, involves a parental matched marriage to an older man, her life as the equivalent of a servant among her In-laws, Bapu’s alienation from her in-laws, her repeated running away to become a spiritual follower of various ashram gurus, and her mental health diagnosis of schizophrenia and hospitalization to attempt a “cure”. The topics explored in Bapu’s story include the relationship between spiritual/mystical experiences and those of psychosis; the role of women and marriage in India; how madness or mental illness is dealt with in India.

I interviewed two psychiatrists, two psychologists and a psychoanalyst, during a research trip to India in February, 2003. Among several themes each therapist mentioned in common is the custom of patrilocal (a wife living with her husband’s relatives upon marriage) arrangement along with a dowry system (the opposite of bride price, where a wife’s family must compensate in money or goods the husband’s family). These two practices put enormous pressure on a bride’s family and on the bride. Bapu’s case was a bit unique because she had her own house upon marriage and her in-laws came to live in her house. But she was nevertheless a stranger in her own house. Her husband and his relatives relegated her to the equivalent of a domestic servant. One of the most common complaints of female therapy patients in India (according to my interviewees) has been conflict between young wives and their mothers-in-law. Because of the patrilocal system new wives are expected to serve at the will of their mothers-in-law, typically in the mother-in-law’s house. It is not uncommon for new wives to run away. It is possible that part of Bapu’s reason for repeatedly running away and either taking up residence at various ashrams or temples, or in homeless situations, under the assumed rationale of seeking spiritual transformation, was to escape the oppression of her in-laws. Seeking some kind of spiritual existence in a culture of gods, demons and mystics may be interpreted as a symptom of a form of psychosis, such as schizophrenia. Hallucinations and delusions being symptoms of schizophrenia, are typically manifested by mystics who have been spoken to or commanded by a god or gods. Delusions of grandeur and paranoia, and hearing the voice of God are regularly associated with religious mystics – even leaders of mainstream religions (e.g. Jesus, Moses, Joseph Smith, etc.). Aviv quotes one psychiatrist, Dr. Manon (who I also interviewed), who said, “In schizophrenia too much religion is not good” (p.79). I believe she meant that people with a preconditional vulnerability to schizophrenia would have too much cultural reinforcement for being swallowed into spiritual delusions and thereby magnifying their symptoms. Aviv seems to question this, but I think Manon had already had plenty of experience with psychotic patients and her own cultural patterns to identify this phenomenon.

Russell Shorto, in “Saints and Madmen” (1999), discussed the possible similarities and differences between psychosis and mysticism. He quotes Tony Stern, a Martin Buber scholar: “I think there is a fine line between the two conditions, and perhaps the underlying process is the same- so that essentially the question is what do you do with it, how you respond to it. If you look at the great mystics, I can’t think of one who did not show signs of what today would be considered severe psychosis or manic-depressive illness.” (p. 97). Shorto also refers to a distinction made by Tomas Agosin: the psychotic delusion is grandiosity; “a mystic is humbled by his experience, a psychotic inflated” (p.71). From Aviv’s description of what Bapu communicated in her journals and the fact that Bapu became more like a holy person (as perceived by her community) in her later years, I think she was humbled and not inflated by her experiences.

Aviv suggests that psychoanalysis may not be a good fit for Indian culture and she mentions the original contact that Freud had with Girindrapekhar Bose (though she does not provide his name), the founder of the first psychoanalytic society in Calcutta, India. Aviv does not dive deeply enough into this topic and she almost brushes it aside by stating, “But Freud’s psychoanalysis proved largely incompatible with a culture for which mysticism is often essential to people’s lives.” (p.80) Bose actually developed a theory and practice which paralleled that of Freud, but without ever meeting Freud or reading his books. He contacted Freud via letter once he had read some of Freud’s books. Freud was thrilled that he had a devotee in India. This is well reported in Ashis Nandy’s book, “The Savage Freud” (1995). Nandy (who I interviewed in 2003) is known as a political psychologist and some of his analysis points to the influence of colonialism. He said, “Psychoanalysis came to represent something more than a therapeutic technique that could be adapted to the mental health problems of the burgeoning, partly decultured, urban bourgeoisie, even though that is how Bose often viewed it, especially when writing for his international audience. Psychoanalysis also had to serve as a new instrument of social criticism, as a means of demystifying aspects of Indian culture that seemed anachronistic or pathological to the articulate middle classes, and as a dissenting western school of thought that could be turned against the West itself. ” (p.83). Nandy says that his essay about Bose tells how “Bose’s unique response to Freud’s theories was shaped by the psychological contradictions that had arisen in Indian culture due to this colonial impact and the cultural contradictions within psychoanalysis itself” (p.83). So while Aviv may be somewhat correct about psychoanalysis being largely incompatible with a culture still imbedded in mysticism, she has not considered the ongoing influence of Western culture in general and Western theories and methods of healing.

Sudhir Kakar, India’s foremost psychoanalyst, whom I interviewed in 2003, spent three years as an ethnographer investigating the many and varied approaches to healing mental illness among India’s traditional healers and those with various emotional, mental illnesses.The results of his research are reported in his book, “Shamans, Mystics, and Doctors: Psychological Inquiry into India and its Healing Traditions.”(2002). As a trained psychoanalyst with a practice in Delhi, Kakar is able to compare Western and traditional Indian approaches to healing mental illness. Kakar states, “what makes the majority of Indian approaches to mental health different from the dominant Western view on the subject is their emphasis on the relational. In the Indian prescriptive lists (for example in Ayruveda) one is struck by the number of ideals of mental health that prescribe the person’s behavior in relation to others, especially family and community. A restoration of the lost harmony between the person and his group, we saw earlier, was one of the primary aims of the healing endeavors in the local and folks traditions.” (p.274). Kakar mentions a number of other distinctions between Western psychotherapy and traditional Indian approaches to mental health, and though his book is more than twenty years old, most of what he identified as differences are still in evidence while Western influenced psychotherapies continue to exist alongside traditional practices. I will revisit this topic in a future post.

I will continue my reflections on Aviv’s book in the next post.

Back To The Couch With Freud.

Joseph Bernstein, New York Times, March 26, 2023

This article is an attempt to suggest that Freudian psychoanalysis may be making a comeback in the U.S. I am not wholly persuaded. Bernstein has written a fine journalistic summary of the current state of various psychotherapeutic approaches. It is mostly focused on New York based psychoanalysis, though the article sets the proposed recent growth of psychoanalytic patients within the broader context of a waning interest in particular psychiatric drugs and a move away from cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) as the dominant treatment approach for all mental health issues.


I agree with Bernstein’s comment that “Freud never totally disappeared. Some of his concepts,like denial and libido, are so deeply imbedded in popular culture that we no longer think of them as Freudian.” I would add just a few of his other concepts, such as ego, id, superego, free association, Oedipal complex, oral and anal phases, which are part of our cultural discourse. I believe psychotherapy in general has become progressively more imbedded in our U.S. culture over the last several decades, though this may not necessarily indicate a growth in people seeking psychoanalytic treatment. Classical Freudian psychoanalytic practice has evolved into a variety of approaches, with varying theoretical distinctions from Freud’s central propositions and varying practice parameters, such as fewer sessions per week and more empathetic engagement with patients. Any type of psychoanalytic treatment is still very expensive and usually longer term than many other types of psychotherapy. So called “efficacy” evaluations are misplaced when comparing something like cognitive behavioral therapy and psychoanalysis. CBT is often very short term and focused on treating phobias and anxiety issues. Psychoanalysis is generally longer term and deals with a fundamental transformation of one’s essential self and life meanings. It is not typically symptom treatment focused.

Bernstein mentions several film and television representations of psychotherapy/psychoanalysis, such as a forthcoming film, “Freud’s Last Session” with Anthony Hopkins, and “Couples Therapy” a Showtime series, featuring psychoanalyst Orna Guralnik, as well as the 2011 film, “A Dangerous Method”, about Freud, Jung and Sabina Speilrein. I have written about various media representations of psychotherapy/psychoanalysis in previous posts and one trend I have noted is that depictions of therapy in various media have become progressively more realistic and authentic. From Hitchkock’s “Spellbound”, through Tony Soprano and Dr Malfi, and “Dead Poet’s Society” to “In Treatment”, with Gabriel Berne as the therapist, film and TV representations have hewn closer to the “real thing”. But the first documentary representation to become widely available and impactful is “Couples Therapy”. I have used “In Treatment” in seminars to discuss the process of psychotherapy and the types of problems which arise and ways in which the therapist and his supervisor choose to deal with their patients/clients. This series was fictional and while it raised some important issues, such as the necessary ethical boundaries of the therapist, the audience knew it was not a documentary.

In a time when TV audiences have become entertained by a variety of “reality” shows, perhaps we have become trained to find interpersonal conflicts entertaining? Or are we identifying with characters and situations to the point of having these representations of therapy be somewhat therapeutic for ourselves. “Couples Therapy” offers us a psychoanalytic psychotherapy approach to resolving relationship conflicts, while teaching us about the kinds of conflicts many couples deal with and the possible ways a therapeutic guidance or intervention may help restore what likely was once a loving and healthy relationship. I would like to have data which would indicate how many couples may be seeking therapy as a result of watching “Couples Therapy”.

Bernstein includes the obligatory journalist’s mention of one of Freud’s critics, Frederick Crews, who I have referred to in my post about “Freud Bashing”. Crews’s criticisms notwithstanding, his impact is virtually nil, while Freud’s influence continues. Also mentioned is a quote from Orna Guralnik which underscores what I had written earlier in my posts on various biographies of Freud. She said, “I originally read Freud as a teenager and thought This is amazing. Then I came into all sorts of deep feminist critiques and started thinking This is a whole bunch of patriarchical garbage. But having read a lot more and having come to realize that you have to see Freud in the context of his time, I came out on the other side. There are all kinds of Freuds. And you kind of pick and choose what Freud you want to have.” I titled one of my posts, ” Who’s Freud, or Whose Freud?” I do think we need to think with and beyond Freud, however, when evaluating the current impact of psychoanalysis in the U.S. If we broaden our lens to consider what may be happening with a general increased involvement with all approaches in psychotherapy, a possible uptick in psychoanalytic sessions may be just part of a larger trend. After a few years of the Covid 19 sequestering, there is likely a pent up need for help with individual emotional problems and interpersonal conflicts, and while many therapists were forced to offer remote therapy sessions, people now have even more need for in-person visits to a therapist’s office. And most therapists are overbooked, which makes wait times longer. Psychoanalysis will likely remain a boutique therapy, appealing to people who can afford the time and cost and who are desirous of some kind of essential transformation of self.

Freud and Jung (Review)

Just when I moved away from my posts on Jung, I picked up my copy of “Freud and Jung: Years of Friendship, Years of Loss”(1990) by Linda Donn. This was my second reading and I had forgotten how appropriately succinct and enlightening it was. At under 200 pages, Donn has done a terrific job of using interview material and correspondences among the inner circles of Jung and Freud – particularly between Freud and Jung. The net effect of the correspondences reaffirms most of what I have already covered in my post on the reasons behind the split between Jung and Freud, though there is one feature of Freud’s thinking and actions which I did not adequately discuss: his consistent, dogged diplomatic attempts to keep Jung within the fold of the psychoanalytic movement.

In one of Jung’s letters to Freud, he cautiously initiates some of his reluctance to address why he is beginning to distance himself from Freud: “I still have resistances to writing to you at the right time… The reason for the resistance is my father-complex, my inability to come up to expectations, (one’s own garbage, says the devil).” (p.119) In response, Donn says, “Freud did his best not to pressure Jung. He tried not to write too often or too soon. He would save a letter and mail it after a safe interval. Or send it right away and explain that psychoanalytic business had made the letter necessary. But once in a while he would chastise Jung. Freud wrote: ‘I am merely irritated now and then- I may say that much, I trust – that you have not yet disposed of the resistances arising from your father-complex, and subsequently limit our correspondence so much more than you would otherwise. Just rest easy, son Alexander.'(likely referring to Alexander the Great). ‘I will leave you more to conquer than I myself have managed, all psychiatry and the approval of the civilized world, which regards me as a savage.'” (p.119)

I believe that Freud had already sensed Jung’s backing away from the sexual libido theory and he needed to carefully cultivate Jung’s commitment to the psychoanalytic movement, since Freud still believes Jung is his only viable heir.

Dunn continues: “But after each flare up there was calm again. Disagreements over definitions of the libido and the frequency of their correspondence were tempered with humor. mild reproach and the inevitable apology, and quickly lost among other, more immediate concerns.” (p.119)

Leading up to the 1910 Congress to be held in Nuremberg, Freud was beginning to sense possible disaffections from his attempts to keep the psychoanalytic movement alive among the Christian Swiss. At the last minute during final Congress planning with Jung , Freud finds out that Jung has sailed to America to see a patient. Donn writes, “Freud leaned that another Swiss friend, Oskar Pfister, would not be able to attend the Congress. ‘I still have not got over your not coming to Nuremburg,’ Freud told Pfister in alarm. ‘Bleurer is not coming either, and Jung is in America, so that I am trembling about his return. What will happen if my Zurichers desert me?'”(p.120)

Meanwhile, the Viennese analysts attending the Congress were upset that Freud was promoting Jung to head up the international movement and they gathered at a closed door meeting during the Congress to stage a protest. Donn says, “When Freud learned of the protest meeting, he went at once to Stekel’s room. Accounts differed over what happened next; Franz Wittels’ was the most restrained. ‘Most of you are Jews’ he remembered Freud saying, ‘and therefore you are incompetent to win friends for the new teaching. Jews must be content with the modest role of preparing the ground. It is absolutely essential that I should form ties in the world of general science. I am getting on in years and am weary of being perpetually attacked. We are all in danger… They won’t even leave me a coat to my back. The Swiss will save us – save me, and all of you as well.'” (p.122)

Psychoanalysis would not have taken off and had such an impact if it were not for Freud’s persistence and attempts at diplomatically bridging the gaps of various idealogical and power groups among the eastern and western European analysts. Another example of this is referred to by Donn, ” It was not for pleasure that Freud had made the long journey to Bavaria at Christmastime in 1910. The psychoanalytic movement had suffered serious setbacks since the Nuremberg Congress, particularly in Switzerland. Bleuler, who had been among the first to acknowledge Freud’s theories, now refused, along with most of the Swiss, to join the new organization dedicated to Freud’s psychoanalysis. Bleuler’s influence over his Swiss colleagues was significant, and his stature in academic psychology would have lent Freud’s association an austere luster. Here in Munich, amid the robust festivities of the German Christmas, Freud would do his best to win him back.” (p.125) Apparently, Jung had only slight influence among the Swiss at this time, so Freud needed Bleuler.

Meanwhile Freud was taking a risk by placing most of his trust and hopes in Jung. Donn says, ” The precarious future of the analytic movement now depended, through attrition and by design, on one-man: Carl Jung.” {p. 127) Even when it became progressively obvious that Jung was wavering in his support for the libido theory, Freud went out of his way to accommodate some of Jung’s suggested “adjustments”. Donn says, ” Despite Freud’s reservations about tampering with the libido theory, he did his best to be open-minded. When Jung wrote him, ‘the essential point is that I try to replace the descriptive concept of libido by a generic one’, Freud had a ready answer. ‘ I am all in favor of your attacking the libido question and I myself am expecting much light from your efforts. Often , it seems, I can go for a long while without feeling the need to clarify an obscure point, and then one day I am compelled to by the pressure of facts or by the influence of someone else’s ideas.'” (p.141) This statement seems quite different from the pictures often painted about Freud’s stubborn insistence on complete adherence to his sexual libido theory. Unfortunately it seems it was too late to pull Jung back from his own ambitions. Donn says, “It seemed to Freud that he had reached the end of a rope. ‘I certainly knew about his ambition’, he wrote to Ferenczi, ‘but I hoped to have pressed this power into my service through the position I created for him and am still preparing. The prospect of doing everything myself as long as I live and then failing to leave behind a worthy successor to carry on, is not very comforting.'”(p.141)

Freud was beginning to panic over the possible defection of Jung and other Swiss and he needed to be sure he could at least insure his hold on his closest allies. Donn says, “In the spring of 1913, it was by no means certain who in the end would stand at the side of Freud and at the side of Jung. The question included not only Oskar Pfister and Ludwig Binswanger, men who were expected as Swiss to be torn in their loyalties between their countryman, Carl Jung, and the man they loved and admired, Sigmund Freud. Questions of loyalty surrounded even the members of Freud’s secret council. Only three years before, Ernest Jones had vacillated over Freud’s theory of sexuality. Now, under Jung’s leadership, he and others were offered a strong alternative. Jones appeared to have been won completely to the cause, but Freud was uneasy at times. ‘I am not at all contented’, he would complain to Jones, ‘that you bear Jung’s insolence without remonstrating’. Freud was even briefly unsure of Karl Abraham. ‘Abraham has been here for three days’, Freud wrote on one occasion. ‘I am not informed how far Rank succeeded in gaining him to join our band’. Freud would give gold rings to the members of his secret committee, symbols of loyalty, and Karl Abraham would receive one of them.” (p.164) The members of Freud’s secret Committee included, Otto Rank, Karl Abraham, Max Eitington, Ernest Jones, Sandor Ferenczi, and Hanns Sachs. Among these most loyal followers, even Otto Rank and eventually Sandor Ferenczi changed their positions regarding the sexual libido theory. Rank broke with Freud, while Ferenczi remained a friend. Jones became Freud’s first biographer and translated many of Freud’s writings into English. Abraham, Eitington, and Sachs remained loyal.

Much has been written about the politics of the psychoanalytic movement and it is clear from Donn’s research into the correspondence between Jung and Freud and between Freud and his other colleagues, that Freud used all of his persuasive powers to shape and promote psychoanalysis into one of the most influential ideas in human history.

Jung and His Contributions: Part Three

The Collective Unconscious

My previous post considered the influence of Jung’s concepts of psychological types, animus and anima, and archetypes. Underpinning each of these concepts, particularly archetypes, is his concept of the collective unconscious. This is how Jung explains the distinction between the personal unconscious and the collective unconscious in “Four Archetypes” (1973):

“A more or less superficial layer of the unconscious is undoubtedly personal. I call it the ‘personal unconscious’. But this personal unconscious rests upon a deeper layer, which does not derive from personal experience and is not a personal acquisition but is inborn. This deeper layer I call the ‘collective unconscious’. I have chosen the term ‘collective’ because this part of the conscious is not individual but universal; in contrast to the personal psyche, it has contents and modes of behavior that are more or less the same everywhere and in all individuals.” (pg.3) “The contents of the personal unconscious are chiefly the feeling-toned complexes, as they are called; they constitute the personal and private side of psychic life. The contents of the collective unconscious, on the other hand, are known as archetypes.”(p.4)

Jolande Jacobi, in “The Way of Individuation” (1967) explains Jung’s notions of personal and collective unconscious: “He distinguishes the ‘personal unconscious’, whose contents are ontogenetically acquired, and the ‘collective unconscious’, whose contents are derived from phylogenesis. These latter are specifically human, typical modes of action and reaction, irrepresentable propensities which he terms ‘archetypes’. They become perceptible to consciousness under definite constellations in the form of archetypal images, symbols, or processes. On the one hand they are ‘reflections’ of the instincts, on the other they express ideations. Hence Jung distinguishes between the non-perceptible archetype per se and the perceptible archetypal image. The ego is conditioned not only by the unconscious psyche but also very largely by the ‘collective consciousness’. By this term Jung means the sum total of traditions, conventions, customs, prejudices, rules, and norms of the environment in which the individual lives, and the spirit of the age by which he is influenced.” (p.150)

My own take on Jung’s and Jacobi’s descriptions is that we are aware of the existence and contents of our personal unconscious but if there is such a thing as a “collective unconscious”, it is an “irrepresentable propensity” – an “archetype”, and it is “non-perceptible”. What we may experience of the collective unconscious or archetypes are tracings or symbolic representations (ideas, images). We then extrapolate or interpret these tracings as signs indicating that they do indeed come from a universal source. This notion links Jung’s research into alchemy to his ideas about transformation and individuation. While Toni Wolff warned Jung not to move deeply into alchemy, he obviously ignored her warning. She believed he was leaving science and becoming more occultist. This was, of course, what Freud had warned of. I suspect that some of the attraction to Jung’s ideas has to do with the “spiritual” flavor of his investigation into alchemy and the collective unconscious, though Jung himself did not claim a particular creation designer. Jung was an indefatigable investigator of the unknown. He was willing to risk his reputation as a scientist to dive deeply into the occult.

In my research about the human journey process, I identified representations of individual journeys through mythology, literature, films, memoirs, spiritual quests, travel journals, anthropological ethnographies, and these representations followed a definite pattern – one which elaborated the basic departure-initiation-return pattern identified in Joseph Campbell’s “Hero with a Thousand Faces”. This pattern could be a “non-perceptible archetype”. Only the tracings or representations are perceptible. The relationship Jung saw between the personal unconscious and the collective unconscious, I saw in the individual journey pattern and the “universal” journey pattern. The individual is the synchronic and the universal is the diachronic. The individual “hero’s journey” plays out the universal pattern , but with individual and particular style.


I believe Jung’s ideas about the individuation process may be among his most significant contributions. A complete explanation of what Jung intended with his conception of the individuation process would likely include some explanation of many of his other concepts, such as archetypes, the personal and collective unconscious, anima and animus, the function of the shadow. Jolande Jacobi (1967) explains the core of what Jung intended with his development of the individuation process:

“When Jung speaks of an individuation process that characterizes a possibility of development immanent in everyone and that culminates in rounding out the individual into a psychic whole, his conception, though following the same line as other philosophical definitions, is both broader and deeper, since it takes account not only of the conscious but also the unconscious components of the psyche in their delicately balanced and creative interaction with the conscious mind.”(p.13.) In her chapter on “The Two Kinds of Individuation”, Jacobi says: “Fundamentally, individuation is a natural process immanent in every living organism. The individuation process can either take place unconsciously, or it can be made conscious in various ways and brought to a high degree of differentiation. It goes without saying that there are any number of intermediate stages. Two main forms may be distinguished:

  1. The natural process, occurring more or less autonomously and without the participation of consciousness, and
  2. The ‘artificial’ process, aided for instance by analysis, developed by definite methods, and consciously experienced.

In both forms the same power is at work, striving for maturation and self-realization from the seed to the fruit, to the invisible goal immanent within them. But the two forms are as different as, say, a wild fruit and a highly cultivated one. In the first case everything is left to the natural process; in the second, this is assisted, intensified, and consciously realized by the application of a special technique”. (p.15)

Two main phases of the individuation process:

Both the “natural” and the “artificial” variants are divided into two main phases, essentially the first half and second half of each person’s life. While this is to some extent arbitrary, Jacobi (1967) states, “their duration, the kind of task that has to be solved in them, and the depth and intensity of the experience vary with each individual.”(p.21) While most developmental psychology theories focus on the first half of life, Jung was particularly interested in the transition from the first phase to the second and how one can shape the second half of their lives.

Possible stages in the individuation process:

While there are a number of sources which refer to “stages” in the individuation process, it is not clear to me that Jung mapped specific stages and even though Jacobi titles a chapter, “Stages” in her book (1967), I was hard pressed to notice any clearly delineated stages. Jacobi refers to “four functions of consciousness” These are the ones I mentioned in my post on psychological types: thinking, feeling, sensation, and intuition. She refers to the two attitudes , also mentioned in my previous post: introversion and extroversion. She argues that the development of the relationship between the attitudes and the functions is part of a natural process and acts as criteria for “the successful course of the individuation process.”(P.37) A possible first stage would then be the shaping of “persona”. “By ‘persona’ Jung means that segment of the ego which is connected with relations to the surrounding world.” (p.37) Jacobi says, “An elastic persona that ‘fits well’ belongs to the psychic wardrobe of the adult man, and its lack or its rigidity is an indication of psychic maldevelopment.” (p.37) She warns about a danger in over identifying with one’s persona, such as a professor with his textbooks or a general with his rank. In relating the functions, attitudes and persona, Jacobi says, “The development and differentiation of the predominant ‘attitude’ and main ‘function’ as well as the persona generally go hand in hand with experiences and conflicts which are indispensable for the maturation of the psyche.”(p.37)

A possible second “stage” could be the “shadow”. Jacobi says, “The shadow is the sum of all the qualities conforming to our sex that were neglected or rejected while the ego was being built up. The growth of the shadow, like that of the persona, keeps pace with that of the ego; it is, as it were, the ego’s mirror-image, and is compounded partly or repressed, partly of unlived psychic features which, for moral, social, educational, or other reasons, were from the outset excluded from consciousness and from active participation in life and were therefore repressed or split off. Accordingly the shadow can be marked by both positive and negative qualities.”(p.38) According to Jung there is a personal shadow and a collective shadow. Working through shadow content in mythology and dreams is part of the individuating process. Jacobi says: “Conscious realization of the shadow, the disclosure of its qualities, and the integration of its contents always have a therapeutic effect because this is a step on the way towards man’s wholeness.” (p.40)

Along with working with shadow material a possible third “stage” in the individuation process may be encountering and working with one’s anima or animus. Jacobi says: “one of the main tasks of the second phase of the individuation process is a confrontation with the unconscious feminine features of the man, which Jung calls the ‘anima’, or with the unconscious features of the woman, the ‘animus’. Both are archetypal powers and besides personal elements also contain collective ones. Being so constituted they form the natural bridge to the deepest layers of the psyche.” (p.44) The figures of anima and animus are projected on persons, such as mothers and fathers, and also in dreams and fantasies. Jacobi says: “In the first half of life it is natural and logical that these intrapsychic figures should appear in projection and that we are thus attracted to the men and women who are their carriers, and fall in love with them. It is the task of the second half of life to withdraw the projections. It belongs to the second phase of the individuation process, when a man must learn to stand by himself, to discover the contrasexual element in himself and to fecundate it, thus rounding out his personality without impairing for relationship as such..”(p.45)

If there is a fourth “stage”, it is likely when the ego has been strengthened sufficiently through the previous “stages” to be able to confront the “Self”. The term “self” or “Self” is, of course, loaded with every psychologist’s, philosopher’s, and religious theorist’s interpretation. I may delve deeply into this in a future post, but for now, Jung’s notion of “Self” is seen as the objective of the individuation journey. Jacobi says, “The confrontation with the shadow and its integration must always be achieved first in the individuation process in order to strengthen the ego for further laps in the journey and for the crucial encounter with the Self.” (p.47) Further, “The aim of the individuation process is a synthesis of all partial aspects of the conscious and unconscious psyche. It seems to point to an ultimately unknowable, transcendent ‘centre’ of the personality, which – paradoxically – is at the same time its periphery – and is of the’ highest intensity’, possessing an extraordinary power of irradiation. The centre and periphery Jung calls the ‘Self’, and he terms it the origin and fulfillment of the ego.” (p.49) “The Self is always there, it is the central, archetypal, structural element of the psyche, operating in us from the beginning as the organizer and director of the psychic processes. It’s ‘a priori’ teleological character, it’s striving to realize an aim, exist even without the participation of consciousness.”(p.50)

In addition to Jacobi’s explanations and interpretations of what Jung intended by the individuation process, I found Elie Humbert’s explanations in his “C.G.Jung” (1984) to be the clearest of all I surveyed. He says, “Individuation can then be seen as an unconscious process that underlies the flow of life and is transformed when it becomes conscious, that is , in Jung’s view, when the ego experiences the collective unconscious. The ego experiences the collective unconscious when it encounters the shadow or when the anima and the animus are differentiated from the external images upon which they were originally projected. Individuation always takes the form of a conflict by which the subject is transformed. Individuation presupposes that the ego has recognized and come to terms with the unconscious center of the personality. Jung was referring to that center when he used the phrase ‘being whole’. Wholeness results from the coordination of the ego with the Self, whatever may be the subject’s wounds and lacks.”(p.117). Humbert continues, “The individuating psyche is indivisible -that is, integrated – because it holds opposites together. the psyche becomes more itself by becoming more centered, but it does so without isolating itself from others. The differentiation of the individual from the collective, in the sense that the differentiation was defined by Jung, connects human beings to their environment rather than severing them from it. Individuation is the opposite of individualism.” (p.118)

There are obvious parallels between explanations of the individuation process and the journey process, as depicted in my own research. Jacobi says, “not for nothing is the individuation process said to be an analogy of the ‘quest of the hero’, or the dangers which he must overcome before he can gain the king’s throne.” (p.47) The hero journeyer in mythology sets out to discover new territory or accomplish some challenging objective, such as defeating an enemy or finding a cosmic egg. A successful journey will likely result in a personal transformation, and include a boon or reward which can be shared with his community upon his return. The boon, be it a cosmic egg or holy grail, is analogous to wisdom or knowledge.

According to Jung, Jacobi, and Humbert, a successful individuation process will include a “departure” from one’s ordinary existence by beginning to grapple with one’s persona, anima or animus, shadow material, and whatever one’s unconscious offers up. This long struggle phase might be considered the “initiation”. Once the ego has “recognized and come to terms with the unconscious center of the personality” the “subject is transformed”, and becomes whole, and the “return” phase is accomplished. The individuation process can occur “naturally” (and unconsciously) or “artificially” (via analysis and consciously). The questing journey can also occur unconsciously and unintentionally or with obvious conscious intention. Jung himself has characterized his own individuation process as something like a hero’s journey, which included his diving deeply into his own unconscious and dream material and involving an emotional breakdown as part of his “initiation” and his arrival-return as the maturing of his ego and Self encounter.

Jung and His Contributions: Part Two

“Americans are Jung and Easily Freudened” – James Joyce

“Americans Are Afreud and Want to be Jung Again” – Robert McAndrews

Carl Jung’s ideas have been considerably more influential than those of any other followers of Freud. Alfred Adler was the first follower to split with Freud and his influence has continued to some extent, both directly with Adlerian psychology and psychotherapy, but also indirectly through some of family therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy. I will cover this later when I post about Adler. Other significant early followers include Sandor Ferenczi, Karl Abraham, Hans Sachs, Ernest Jones, Otto Rank, none of whom have left much of a lasting influence. Anna Freud, who would also be considered a follower of her father’s theories and practices, was likely the most influential after Jung. Jung’s early research with psychological types and his interests in parapsychology, mythology and alchemy stimulated his thinking beyond his commitment to Freud’s sexual libido theory.

Psychological Types

While Jung sought ways to organize his understandings of symbols he encountered in dreams of patients and his own dreams, and his research into myths and religions of the world, he also was aware of the ways any of his category constructions could be misunderstood and /or taken as easy and simple ways to characterize and identify people and their behavior patterns. He made specific cautionary comments in some of his late writings, particularly in the Introductory chapter in “Man and His Symbols” (1972 ) which includes essays by several other key followers of Jung, and he edited, and which was intended for a general audience.

Nevertheless, Jung’s terms ‘introvert’ and ‘extrovert’, as well as ‘anima’ and ‘animus’, and ‘archetypes’ have become widely incorporated into almost everyday language around the world, much as Freud’s terms ‘ego’, ‘id’, ‘superego’ have become our universal reference to self dynamics. Jung wrote his book, “Psychological Types” in 1921. His typology developed over some years through exchanges with his friend Hans Schmid and Sabina Spielrein, with whom he also had an intimate relationship. Bair (2004) says: “Jung saved his own typology for the last chapter, which comprised the final 150 pages or so of his text. To the ‘attitudes’ of introvert and extravert, he added four further differentiations called functions. To ‘feeling’ and ‘thinking’ he now adopted Schmid’s and Toni Wolff’s suggestions and gave equal status to ‘intuition’ and ‘sensation’. Feeling and thinking he grouped under the rubric ‘rational’ while sensation and feeling became ‘non rational’. Two attitudes and four functions thus permitted a grand total of eight possible psychological types. In the years following the 1921 publication,Jung was asked repeatedly why had proposed a system composed of two types, four functions, and eight possible types. ‘That there are exactly four is a matter of empirical fact’ was his consistent response.” (pgs. 287-288)

This response of Jung suggests that he has assumed some scientific credibility of the categories he has developed, yet my own critique of our tendency to classify people into types, which I will mention below, is actually echoed by Jung in this statement by Bair(2004 ): “Few persons, it seemed, read the book as Jung intended. By the time it had gone through multiple printings in many languages, he felt compelled to address the ‘regrettable misunderstanding’ that had turned the book into ‘nothing but a childish parlour game’. He complained that even within the medical profession his typology was used to slot patients into his system and give them corresponding ‘advice’. He insisted that his ‘typology is not in any sense to stick labels on people on first sight: it is not physiognomy and not an anthropological system, but a critical psychology dealing with the organization and delimitation of psychic processes that can be shown to be typical'”. (p.288) “Nothing but a childish parlour game”. This has, indeed, been part of the legacy of Jung’s typology terms. We casually refer to others as extroverts and introverts as if there was some credibility in these characterizations. My own concern about any kind of psychological typing, to include the diagnostic labels in the DSM, is that the process reinforces our inclination to fix others with particular characteristics and identify them only with these characteristics. Jung characterized himself as an introvert and he characterized Freud as an extravert, yet they were likely both in some combination – as are many people. Jung added thinking, feeling, intuition, sensation as “functions” possibly to give more flexibility and breadth to introversion and extraversion, but these function terms simply multiply the tendency to fix people in more categories. An example of the kind of influence Jung’s typology has had would be the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator, which was constructed as an adaptation of his typology and has been employed in various organizations as a tool for enhancing psychological insights. My position is that all humans express all of these characteristics( thinking, feeling, intuition and sensation) and we express them to varying degrees and rates at various times under various contextual situations. A typology of any kind does not capture context, duration, or variations in circumstances. I suspect that Jung might agree with me on this.

Anima and Animus

I can be accused of using anima and animus rather loosely to refer to female and male energy or female and male principles or elements. According to Jung we each have both anima and animus elements. As he wrote in “Man and His Symbols” (1972): “In the Middle Ages, long before the physiologists demonstrated that by reason of our glandular structure there are both male and female elements in all of us, it was said that ‘every man carries a woman within himself’. It is this female element in every male that I have called the ‘anima’ (p.16). And likewise, Jung refers to the male element in every female as the ‘animus’. Marie Louise von Franz devotes chapter three in “Man and his Symbols”, about the individuation process, to analyzing the dynamics of anima and animus through the unconscious processes via dreams and mythology. She states: “The male personification of the unconscious in woman – the animus- exhibits both good and bad aspects, as does the anima in man” (p.198). von Franz borrows images and stories primarily from Western mythologies to identify what I consider rather stereotypical characteristics of female and male personalities and behaviors, according to standard cultural constructs. None of these characteristics are necessarily based in biology. The various symbols of anima and animus as interpreted in dreams by an analytic psychotherapist may assist in a depth therapy process, but otherwise the utility of these abstract types is limited.


Story: A number of years ago I was giving a talk to a Jung Society group in Colorado about the Hero Monomyth and male journeys. I discussed the hero’s journey as an archetype and went on to say that archetypes were abstract concepts. Quite a number of people in the audience were extremely upset with my characterization and argued that archetypes were actual “things”, as if Jung had “discovered” them and not “invented” them. It was not clear to me at the time why they believed this and I was not familiar enough with what Jung actually had written about archetypes. I have since come to realize that some followers of Jung’s writings have treated them as biblical and they have interpreted certain terms and concepts in a doctrinaire fashion. This is what Jung says in “Man and His Symbols”(1972):

“My views about the ‘archaic remnants’, which I call ‘archetypes’ or ‘primordial images’, have been constantly criticized by people who lack a sufficient knowledge of the psychology of dreams and mythology. The term ‘archetype’ is often misunderstood as meaning certain definite mythological images or motifs. But these are nothing more than conscious representations; it would be absurd to assume that such variable representations could be inherited. The archetype is a tendency to form such representations of a motif – representations that can vary a great deal in detail without losing their basic pattern. My critics have incorrectly assumed that I am dealing with ‘inherited representations’, and on that ground they have dismissed the idea of the archetype as mere superstition.” (pgs. 57-58) Further on he says: “Here I must clarify the relation between instincts and archetypes: what we properly call instincts are physiological urges, and are perceived by the senses. but at the same time, they also manifest themselves in fantasies and often reveal their presence only by symbolic images. These manifestations are what I call archetypes. they are without known origin; and they reproduce themselves in any time or in any part of the world – even where transmission by direct descent or ‘cross-fertilization’ through migration must be ruled out.” (p.58)

Jung has written other descriptions/ definitions of archetypes elsewhere, but since this quote is from the essay chapter he wrote in the last year of his life, I believe it best represents his thinking. I believe he is stating that archetypes are symbolic representations of universal human motifs or themes and can be manifested through dreams, mythologies, fairytales, and so on. Themes such as the child or wise old man or wise old woman or the hero’s journey are found universally, because all cultures have certain essential experiences. Fathers and mothers and the roles of fathers and mothers, as well as children and other human relationships are at base universal and the representations and metaphorical images can be found throughout history and across all cultures. These representations can be understood as archetypes. Perhaps some confusion arises when Jung states that archetypes are “at the same time both images and emotions” and he further explains in “Man and His Symbols” (1972), “But since so many people have chosen to treat archetypes as if they were part of a mechanical system that can be learned by rote, it is essential to insist that they are not mere names, or even philosophical concepts. They are pieces of life itself – images that are integrally connected to the living individual by the bridge of the emotions. That is why it is impossible to give an arbitrary (or universal) interpretation of any archetype. It must be explained in the manner indicated bu the whole-life situation of the particular individual to whom it relates.”(p.89). Jung seems to be saying that archetypes are not simply symbolic representations or images – that these images are directly connected to essential human experiences and that they are expressed individually, though within a “collective” context. I have thought of this as a synchronic event within a diachronic frame. In my own analyses of the hero’s journey (as an archetype), I identified a journey pattern which seems universal in form, yet individualized in expression or manifestation.

Jung wrote “Four Archetypes: Mother/Rebirth/Spirit/Trickster “(1973), (taken from his 1934 paper, “Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious”), in which he summarizes his thinking about archetypes and the collective unconscious. Since his notions about archetypes are directly connected to his ideas about the personal and collective unconscious, I will take this up in my next post.

“Jung: A Biography”(2004) by Deidre Bair

I have wanted to begin some posts on the life and theories and practice of Carl G. Jung for some time, and decided to begin with what may be considered the most thorough and balanced biography by Deidre Bair. While she is not a psychotherapist or analyst, she has won awards for her biographies of Samuel Beckett, Anais Nin, and Simone de Beauvoir. I will refer to some other biographies and Jung’s inimitable autobiography, “Memories, Dreams and Reflections” , as I consider the life and theoretical ideas of Jung as represented by Bair.

Bair addresses fairly the most controversial aspects of Jung’s career and life, particularly his break from Freud, his role in possible support for the Nazis and anti-semitism, and his relationship with Toni Wolff, while not allowing these topics to dominate her treatment of Jung’s ideas and contributions.

Some other biographies and books about Jung’s ideas which I may refer to briefly are: Jolande Jacobi’s ” The Way of Individuation”(1967); Colin Wilson’s “Jung: Lord of the Underworld” (1988); June Singer’s “Boundaries of the Soul: The Practice of Jung’s Psychology” (1973); Richard Noll’s “The Jung Cult”(1997); Don McGowan’s “What is Wrong with Jung” (1994; and “Lingering Shadows: Jungians, Freudians, and Anti-Semitism”( 1991), edited by Aryeh Maidenbaum and Stephen A. Martin.

I do not intend to survey a series of biographies of Jung as I did with biographies of Freud, but I have noticed that a similar phenomenon which I referred to as “who’s or whose Freud?” is also evident regarding biographies of Jung. A few biographies tilt toward hagiography, while a few , such as Noll’s and McGowan’s tilt toward “Jung bashing”. Bair’s treatment is basically a favorable one and her explanations of Jung’s more controversial ideas or behavior can at times seem too protective of Jung’s reputation.

I am not particularly interested in Jung’s and Emma’s relationship with Toni Wolff other than the fact that their arrangement of an informal polygyny was particularly unusual during their era and relied on Emma’s incredible forbearance. Toni Wolff may be worthy of her own biography, as she was also a successful analyst. And I posted a brief review of Catrine Clay’s biography of Emma Jung, who was also a successful analyst as well as wife to Carl and mother of his children.

I am also only moderately interested in Jung’s supposed anti-semitism and involvement with the Nazi party. Much has been written about this already and there is not a clear cut case to be made. I will comment about this later. I am most interested in what distinguishes Jung’s analytic psychotherapy from Freud’s psychoanalytic theory and approach and how Jung’s ideas have influenced others and evolved over time. Some of Jung’s ideas which seem to have continued to influence other analytical psychology advocates and which set him apart from other theorists are: the collective unconscious, psychological types, the influence of archetypes, synchronicity, anima and animus, individuation, and active imagination. I have commented elsewhere that I have observed a few different groups of Jungian “followers”. There have been a number of mostly women who were part of the Jungian inner circle (the Psychological Club): Toni Wolff, Jolande Jacobi, Marie-Louise von Franz, M.Esther Harding, Barbara Hannah, Aneila Jaffe, and Emma Jung. There were also those who formed the Jung Institute for education and training in Zurich, as well as the many Jungian analysts throughout the world, many of whom were trained at the Jung Institute. There are also a considerable number of Jung Society groups around the world. These are not typically analysts, but people who are interested in Jung’s ideas. Many of these groups meet and discuss ideas from Jung’s Collected Works. Some of this is the topic of Noll’s “The Jung Cult”.

I am also interested in Jung’s ideas about narcissism and how his ideas may be similar in some respects to those of Heinz Kohut’s. For this I will be referring to Mario Jacoby’s excellent “Individuation and Narcissism: The Psychology of Self in Jung and Kohut”(1991). This will likely act as a segue to a review of Charles B. Strozier’s biography of Kohut, “Heinz Kohut: The Making of a Psychoanalyst”(2001).

Bair treated each of the ideas Jung innovated within analytic psychotherapy in an adequate manner. Her attention to some events, such as the evolution of Jung’s “Memories, Dreams, Reflections”(1961) and the various interpersonal conflicts around it’s development and eventual publication seemed to me to be obsessive. For me the most important part of the story is Jung’s struggles in the process and the significant role played by Aniela Jaffe, who is listed in the publication as “secretary, collaborator, editor”.

Regarding Jung’s split from Freud, most sources, including Bair report the rationales given by Jung which he wrote about in “Memories, Dreams, Reflections”(1961), in the chapter, “Sigmund Freud”. Jung wrote much of this memoir during his 81st year, so his memory of the details and even his unconscious reshaping of his rationale may be questioned. Nevertheless, Jung justified his split based on his need to have his own independent theoretical freedom and because he had challenged for some time, and on several public occasions, Freud’s insistence on the sexual libido drive theory. Freud had earlier asked Jung not to “abandon” the libido drive theory and this caused some internal turmoil for Jung, because he was still somewhat in awe of Freud. The split with Freud definitely affected Jung strongly for years, and I detect in reading “Memories, Dreams, Reflections” that it continued to affect him all his life. In the “Sigmund Freud” section in his memoir, Jung frames his criticism of Freud in somewhat respectful terms, though he clearly points to where he believes Freud’s fixation on the sex drive was an incomplete idea and that Freud was unwilling to consider any alternative theories. Jung writes, “He (Freud) considered the cause of the repression to be sexual trauma. From my practice, however, I was familiar with numerous cases of neurosis in which the question of sexuality played a subordinate part, other factors standing in the foreground. Later I presented such cases to Freud, but he would not grant that factors other than sexuality could be the cause.”(p.147)

I suspect that Freud’s responses were more nuanced than Jung remembers them. Jung then suggests that Freud may have been fixated on sexuality for his own subjective issues: ” I could see that his sexual theory was enormously important to him, both personally and philosophically. This impressed me, but I could not decide to what extent this strong emphasis upon sexuality was connected with subjective prejudices of his, and to what extent it rested upon verifiable experiences.” (p.149). Jung’s unwillingness to carry forward unquestioningly the sexual drive theory was one of two key reasons Jung gives for his falling out with Freud. The other was Freud’s alleged criticism of “occultism”. Jung writes, “I can still recall vividly how Freud said to me ‘My dear Jung, promise me never to abandon sexual theory, That is the most important thing of all. You see we must make a dogma of it, an unshakable bulwark.’ In some astonishment I asked him ‘A bulwark against what?’ To which he replied ‘ Against the black tide of mud – of occultism.’ 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. What Freud seemed to mean by ‘occultism’ was virtually everything that philosophy and religion, including the rising contemporary science of parapsychology, had learned about the psyche. To me the sexual theory was just as occult, that is to say, just as unproved an hypothesis, as many other speculative views.”(p.151) Jung knew that Freud was suspicious of Jung’s interest in parapsychology and various spiritual aspects of human behavior and had cautioned Jung about not becoming swayed by these “occultisms”. Jung continues to distance himself from Freud in his memoir by suggesting that Freud was blind to his own numinous unconscious influences:”Although I did not properly understand it then, I had observed in Freud the eruption of unconscious religious factors. Evidently he wanted my aid in erecting a barrier against these threatening unconscious contents.” “One thing was clear: Freud, who had always made much of his irreligiosity, had now constructed a dogma; or rather, in the place of a jealous God whom he had lost, he had substituted another compelling image, that of sexuality.” (p.151) I doubt that Freud would view his concerns about “occultisms” this way. I will consider Freud’s reflections on this soon.

Jung claims that Freud could not see the spiritual aspect of sexuality: “If Freud had given somewhat more consideration to the psychological truth that sexuality is numinous- both a god and a devil- he would not have remained bound within the confines of a biological concept. ” (p.154) I doubt this claim. I am reasonably certain that Freud considered sexuality as more than simply a biological concept, yet he was convinced of the sex drive as a biological imperative, and as an imperative, we are forced to negotiate it as it influences our behavior. Whether we agree with Freud’s essential theory or not, even Jung had to admit the critical importance of the sexual drive. He imputed his notions of spirituality as a way to incorporate his own extra-biological thinking. Freud continued to argue that psychoanalysis was a science and biology , to some extent, is destiny. He was suspicious of speculative theories which either ignored biology or assumed to be more important than biology. His very early concerns about Jung’s interest in parapsychology and other “occult” ideas, were materialized when Jung began distancing himself from the sexual drive theory and claiming he had enhanced Freud’s theory of psychoanalysis by including notions such as the collective unconscious, archetypes, synchronicity and alchemy.

Freud also recounted his interpretation of the reasons for the split with Jung in his 1914 paper, “On the History of the Psychoanalytic Movement”. Freud was greatly disappointed in Jung because he had hoped Jung and the Swiss psychologists who followed Jung would act as missionaries for psychoanalysis beyond the Vienna and Jewish group. At one level Freud considered Jung’s theoretical defection as a betrayal – perhaps of a son wanting to kill the father in an Oedipal conflict. Since Jung was 19 years younger, there was something of a father-son relationship between them. Others have commented on this and Freud himself referred to it a number of times. But Freud also saw the danger in how his particular theory in psychoanalysis was being distorted and misrepresented by Jung and others.

Freud compares how Adler and Jung tried to change the essential theory of psychoanalysis. Regarding Jung he says: “Jung’s modification disconnects the phenomena from their relation with impulse- life; and further, as its critics (Abraham, Ferenczi, Jones) have pointed out, it is so unintelligible, obscure and confused that it is difficult to take up a standpoint in regard to it.”(p.93) Karl Abraham, Sandor Ferenczi, and Ernest Jones, are, of course, at this time (1914) the most solid followers of Freud. Freud continued this line of critique and when referring to Jung, he also generalized to “the Swiss”: “I did not admit the innovations of the Swiss to be legitimate continuations and further developments of the psychoanalysis that originated with me. Outside critics had already before this perceived the state of things, and Abraham truly says that Jung is in full retreat from psychoanalysis.” (p.93) Freud then levels a point by point critique: “All the changes that Jung has wrought in psychoanalysis flow from the ambition to eliminate all that is disagreeable in the family complexes, so that it may not evidence itself again in ethics and religion. For sexual libido an abstract term has been substituted, of which one may safely say that it remains mystifying and incomprehensible to fools and wise alike. The Oedipus complex was intended merely as something ‘symbolic’; the mother in it means the unattainable, which one must renounce in the interests of civilization; the father who is killed in the Oedipus myth is the ‘inner’ father, from whom one must become free in order to be independent. Other ideas of the material of sexual ideas will undoubtedly undergo similar reinterpretation in the course of time.” “Thus a new religious-ethical system was created, which, just like the Adlerian system, must necessarily lead to new interpretations of the actual results of analysis, or else distort or ignore them.” (p.95)

My reading of Jung’s and Freud’s explanations of why they split would suggest that they each had their ambitions to create a movement, to which Freud would admit and Jung would claim he only wanted the “truth”. Jung, in his old age in the memoir, presents himself as a humble truth seeker, yet his split from Freud and his later exploits belie this presentation. Jung’s ego was a match for that of Freud. He was not the first or the only Freud follower to break with Freud, but he was likely the most influential.

I will continue to investigate Jung’s conceptual contributions in my next post.

New Comments on “Freudian Studies”

A New York Times , April 24, 2022 obituary of Peter Swales, written by Neil Genzlinger, raises some old issues about Freud and his relationship with his sister-in-law, Minna Bernays. Swales might be included with some of the “Freud Bashers” I have referred to in previous posts. He was not part of any professional or academic group or program, but did independent research on Freud and his personal life. In my review of the many Freud biographies I wrote about in previous posts, none gave much credence to the suggestion Swales had made in the early 1980s about Freud’s alleged sexual affairs with Minna. Unfortunately, Genzlinger’s obituary does not mention this fact and he refers to several other “Freud Bashers”, such as Jeffery Mousaieff Masson and Frederick Crews, to provide possible support for any of Swales’s claims about this relationship and other aspects of Freud’s personal life.

While an obituary may not be the appropriate place for a balanced and well researched article about such a contested topic as Freud’s life and practice, I fear that this obituary gives a false impression that Swales’s writings about Freud have greater credibility than they, in fact, have. My own research and posts in the blog pose the proposition that different researchers and biographers seemed to find whatever Freud they were looking for. This is why I titled the post “Who’s Freud?” or “Whose Freud?”. Several critics of Freud made quite a profession( particularly Swales and Crews) of finding whatever faults they may have been looking for and writing about these in rather popular publications. Most of these critics were not psychoanalysts or psychotherapists and some were not even scholarly researchers. Whether there has been some veracity or not in some of the critical arguments about Freud’s private life or his theories and practice, needs to be fairly evaluated in the light of a thorough analysis of his writings and of his various biographers and other psychoanalysts who have written about psychoanalysis.

This can act as a segue into my next few posts which will dive into a few biographies of C.G. Jung.

Ecological Intelligence: Going Big, Going Small.

As part of my explorations into the relationship between psychotherapy and culture, I have used some of Gregory Bateson’s conceptual work to help explain a systems understanding of addiction and his idea about the double bind theory. I have also studied his ideas about ecology of mind, which includes notions of a difference that makes a difference and patterns which connect. My contribution to these ideas is included here in a paper I presented at a Human Science conference. I am exploring how understanding systems, large and small can foster an ecological intelligence. This is how I conceive of the relationship between psychotherapy and culture as well.


Insider: Galit Atlas and “Emotional Inheritance: A Therapist, Her Patients, and The Legacy of Trauma.”(2022)

Galit Atlas, Ph.D. is a psychoanalyst in New York , who has just published a new book about emotional inheritance. She has brilliantly and elegantly shared stories of various types of intergenerational trauma of her therapy patients mixed with some of her own life experiences, particularly growing up in Israel and being part of the Israeli army. I have written about case studies or case stories as part of my post on “fictive healing”. I have also posted reviews of Irvin Yalom’s work, some of which include “Love’s Executioner”(1989) and “Momma and the Meaning of Life” (1999), and Lori Gottlieb’s “Maybe You Should Talk to Someone” (2019). There are also plenty other collections of case stories by other therapists. What distinguishes Atlas’s book from others is that she has followed the thread of intergenerational trauma throughout her patients’ stories while sharing an intimate glimpse into a psychoanalytic therapeutic process and the relationship between a therapist and her patients. She does this without obvious use of analytic jargon. And she shares her own experiences not to highlight them but to help contextualize how she works to help her patients move through their dilemmas. I had written about Lori Gottlieb’s clear explanation of therapy terms, such as transference and countertransference. Atlas has explained what these terms mean without ever using the terms but telling the story of each therapy session and the dynamics of the therapeutic relationship. Another distinction between Atlas’s book and most others, to include those of Gottlieb and Yalom, is that she keeps the focus on her patient’s stories without displaying the cleverness of her analytic interpretations or interventions. She almost always supports her patients in their interpreting and moving through their own conflicts.

During a time in the U.S. when psychoanalysis has been falling out of favor for several decades (though as I have written elsewhere psychoanalysis is still popular in Argentina, Israel, France, and possibly a few other countries), Atlas has been able to sneak into her stories the depth and effectiveness of a psychoanalytic process without announcing it as psychoanalysis, and any particular school or approach of psychoanalysis. Her own approach is relational psychoanalysis and she mentions this but only briefly. I believe she has done a great service to the psychoanalytic community by featuring the process in an engaging storytelling manner to a general audience. Along the way there are a number of terrific, almost throwaway, comments with profound meaning. Here are some examples:

Summarizing one of her patient’s journeys as an illustration of emotional inheritance, she states “In the end, we come to realize that it is the unexamined lives of others that we ourselves end up living” (p.262).

“Sex and money are two topics that people usually try to avoid, not only in their lives, but in therapy too.” “Any unwelcome feeling can be expressed through sex or money: aggression, hostility, the need for domination and power, as well as fragility, narcissism, and trauma.” (p. 243).

“Unprocessed abuse keeps the intergenerational cycle going”. “Healing – breaking the cycle of abuse- is often filled with resistance to the possibility of change. That possibility intensifies the conflict between the part of the self that strives for future liberation and the part that is connected to the past and to previous generations.” (p. 223).

“Paranoid thoughts are a result of our aggressive feelings, feelings that we couldn’t tolerate and needed to get rid of by attributing them to another person. the more aggression is disowned and projected onto others, the more frightened we become of those people.” (p.215).

“Confusing the therapist with intense feelings, evoking fear, or even presenting intense erotic fantasy can serve as a defense strategy to make sure the therapist is unable to think, and therefore unable to know anything real about the patient.”(p.209)

“Heterosexual culture often overvalues solidness, which is associated with erection, masculinity, independence, and activity, while it devalues fluidness, which is associated with femininity, vulnerability, passivity and even contamination.”(p.164).

“A dynamic communication evolves that includes moments of mismatch and potential misunderstanding, followed by moments of re-attunement and repair.”(p.142)

“When our minds remember, our bodies are free to forget.” (p.119)

Referring to Freud’s writing about melancholia and mourning, Atlas says: “melancholia, according to Freud, is an unconscious process in which, instead of detaching and withdrawing the emotional investment from the lost person, the melancholic preserves and keeps that person alive inside them through identification with the dead. If the person is me and I am them, then there is not loss. Keeping the lost person caged inside denies the loss, but at the same time it holds the melancholic person forever captive to it. As a result she loses parts of her own investment in life and vitality.” (p.75)

All of the above quotes are imbedded within case stories, thus they relate directly to what is going on between the therapist and her patients, yet, as can be gleaned from each quote they convey significant insight into the various conflicts, issues, insights, and possible resolutions of the knotty human behavior conundrums we can all relate to.

For various reasons, trauma and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a topic in its many manifestations, has become almost too familiar to a general population. One of the benefits of this is that those who have suffered from PTSD or other related trauma symptoms are more likely to seek help from therapy, since social stigma about this and other psychological illnesses has been somewhat reduced. A possible downside of such broad social references to trauma and PTSD is that there may have become an over interpretation about what trauma is and who has been traumatized by whom. There is ongoing debate among psychologists about what might constitute trauma, PTSD, types of trauma, various treatments for various types of trauma symptoms, etc. Current research indicates that one size (trauma and treatment) may not fit all (types of trauma and types of treatments). As more people who have experienced various types of trauma in their lives share their stories in memoirs, documentary films, fictional representations, and in undergoing serious therapy, such as that of Atlas’s psychoanalysis or other treatment modalities, we will likely be able to parse particular kinds of trauma which will be responsive to particular kinds of therapy. As in some of my other posts, I have indicated that a systems approach will be the most successful in the long run. Allopathic drugs have not been particularly helpful, and certain CBT treatments are not the answer, but MDMA (Ecstasy) has shown some promise and a combination of careful clinical use of MDMA plus various alternative healing modalities, such as yoga, meditation, and so on, plus talk therapy (psychoanalysis) may be the most effective.

Atlas has helped us understand the inner workings of how one’s parents, grandparents, and other relatives who may have experienced some trauma can manifest in each person who continues to experience traumatic symptoms, and how we might be able to seek help from a psychotherapist who can accompany us in navigating the challenging journey of recovery.