[mks_dropcap style=”letter” size=”48″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]A[/mks_dropcap]s the world has continued to shrink over the last century, opportunities for adventure, authentic adventure, have dwindled into recreational activities. Even a tour Everest can be booked now with just a few clicks.
So where can our deep seated drive to explore find an authentic outlet? Some push into extreme sports, others into the arts. The scientifically curious scan the starry skies with the telescope or inversely look into the microscopic roots of matter to uncover the secrets of the universe. It’s not often considered from this angle, but the process of Jungian psychoanalysis provides the individual with a journey that engages reality with a posture as authentic as the adventurous heroes of old. And like the alchemists often warned when their curious practice carried a similar mantel ((Carl Jung was convinced that alchemy was not only the father of modern chemistry, but of psychoanalysis as well)), not everyone makes it. In their language: many go mad or die.
Jungian Psychoanalysis as authentic adventure…
When engaging unconscious dynamics, we can only by definition be encountering unknown, unexplored, unrecognized territory within ourselves. That the experience has real risks that can lead one to further peril is not as often discussed. Like the child who is completely engaged, and in that sense, serious at play, the work of psychoanalysis demands real sacrifice and risk taking. Sometimes these challenges relate to the external circumstances. More often in my experience, they relate to encounters with aspects of the unconscious which evoke shame, terror, dread, despair, and a host of other difficult affects which can shake us to the foundations of our being.
In Liber Novus (The Red Book), Carl Jung writes that “Shame is a soul eating emotion.” Now if we take that statement at face value we can begin to sense the danger inherent in the work. The well defended buttresses of the collective consciousness are quite effective at keeping the dark affects locked out of awareness. [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]A psychoanalytic process seldom stays within the walled courtyard of consciousness.[/inlinetweet] Instead it wanders into the forests beyond the many defenses and in doing so, risks many encounters with the “lions and tigers and bears” of the soul.
In myth and fairy tales, we hear how the heroes and heroines not only face the difficulties they encounter, but learn to deal with them. In Jungian psychoanalysis, it’s amazing, awe inspiring even, to experience the same patterns unfolding. As corny as the image sounds in this regard, I’m reminded of the closing scene of the first Star Wars movie when Luke and the gang receive medals for turning back the Empire. These moments also come along in psychoanalytic process, when it is right to acknowledge difficult accomplishments and to exchange gratitude for the gifts of help that surprisingly (or not so surprisingly) arrived at just the right moment, often when all hope seemed lost.
While in the popular media psychoanalytic sessions tend to get rendered as full of complaint and whining, I’ll continue to argue that this portrayal underestimates the dignity and majesty inherent in wild adventures I’ve taken and been invited to join.