[mks_dropcap style=”letter” size=”48″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]W[/mks_dropcap]hen I reflect on the profound changes that emerge in a long-term psychoanalytic process and then consider the difficulty I sometimes experience communicating this value to others, it forces me to wrestle with the counter-cultural, non-collective aspects of the work. Given the ever increasing desire for quick answers, the kind provided with a few clicks of the smart phone, the challenge sometimes feels futile. Then I remind myself I never signed up to be an apologist for psychoanalysis. The fact is my need to communicate these things to others stems from an inner need to find more clarity, so I struggle on.
What Happens in Long-Term Psychoanalysis?
Psychoanalysis is initiation into and process with unconscious dynamics. And the unconscious is nothing if not a trickster, so the task in not so simple. To create an environment wherein these dynamics can emerge, much is made of the importance of the frame. Images like the sealed vessel from alchemy are helpful, pointing out the importance of creating a sealed container wherein the contents that emerge will not get spoiled or contaminated by outside influences. The need for a tightly sealed vessel goes the other direction as well, for it also prevents the contents from escaping. It is through, among other things, the consistency and the shared boundaries of the meeting space, the time of each session, and the fee, that the frame gets constructed.
But a sealed frame will only do so much.
The relationship, artificial as it might be by outside standards, is all the analyst and the analysand have when then full tidal wave of affects, a chaos the alchemists called the nigredo, manifests.
This melancholic state is so powerful
that, according to scientists and doctors,
it can attract demons to the body,
even to such an extent
that one can get into mental confusion or get visions.
Not every psychoanalytic process dives to these depths. Jung cautioned that [inlinetweet prefix=”…” tweeter=”” suffix=”@_richardreeve”]the analyst cannot take the analysand further than they have traveled.[/inlinetweet]
At first, I naively thought that meant the analyst needed to already have had an experience traveling through all the realms manifesting in process. Over time, I can say that’s not it. I’ve come to learn from another image from Jung’s essay on the transference, namely that the analyst too must enter the bath. This posture recognizes that the traveling with the client can lead to new places for both. I’ve yet to talk with a Jungian analyst who hasn’t learned and grown from each of their analysand’s process. And while the contents might be new for the analyst, the relational attitude is not: open mindedness and acceptance, a receiving of the contents which are presenting.
While the storms rage in process, I’ve found time and time again, it’s the trust that has been built up with the one seated across the way that allows for the courage to encounter the often dreadful material that enters the room. In the end, it is a surrender and letting go into the transformative energies that allows a new reality, forged in the creative fires/waters of Psyche, to take root and emerge.
The collective posture of our culture is thoroughly defended from these experiences. Psychoanalysis, ever a process of revolution ((I use this term because when I reflect on my own process over the last two decades, news images from political revolutions and the chaos of societal transformation are the most relevant analogies to my experience.)) in the individual, has never been bound by the safety of collective norms. It paradoxically, through its slow methodical rituals, provides a quickening for the evolution of Psyche.