Close Enough for Chaos

Chaos in Psychoanalysis

[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.
Agrippa

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.

Color Emerging

Do we dream in color?  As I continue to ponder the value of considering a full spectrum alchemical operation, autumn provides ample opportunity to meditate on color.  Especially the emergence of the color at transitions in process, which seems to fit with psychological experience.

In alchemy, the emergence of the black, white, red and gold all serve as indicators of what process of transformation is taking place.  The full array of color, like the display in autumn, relates to the alchemical image of peacock’s tail which speaks of a unification of the opposites and culmination.

Divides and Watersheds


The majority of my life is currently spent either in the Delaware ((the stream that runs along the south side of our place dumps into Hankins Creek, which runs another five miles to the Delaware)) or the Hudson watershed.

Divides bring a particular arithmetic-like experience to geography, at least when we are attempting to read geography onsite.  We come over a ridge, often not at all spectacular, only to realize that the pathway to the ocean leads to a different outlet on the coast.

the drainage basin on one side of the divide feeds into one ocean or sea, and the basin on the other side either feeds into a different ocean or sea
Image from Wikipedia

Divides separate one area from another which leads my mind to the separations that occur in the terrain of our bodies: the hemispheres of the brain, the septum of the heart and nose. ((I sense the diaphragm is a divide in a different form)) Alchemically we have entered the territory of the procedure known as separatio.

The extraction of a metal from its crude ore was done by heating, pulverizing, or by various chemical means. Many substances when heated will separate into a volatile part which vaporizes and an earthy residue which remains behind. Amalgams, for instance, when heated release their mercury as vapor and leave the non-volatile metal at the bottom of the vessel. … In all these examples, a composite mixture undergoes a discrimination of its component parts. Order is brought out of confusion analogous to creation myths in which cosmos is born out of chaos. It is not surprising therefore, that many cosmogonic myths describe creation as “separatio”.… (Psychotherapy and Alchemy VII. Separatio — Edward Edinger)

In his magnum opus, The Mysterium Coniunctionis we learn:

 “…the alchemical concepts of the stages of conjunction are explained. The colors, symbols and positions of the figures in the illustrations are shown to represent the initial separation (stage of chaos or melancholy), the extraction of the contents of the shadow, and the union of the opposites. The coniunctio appears here as the union of a consciousness (spirit), differentiated by self-knowledge, with a spirit abstracted from previously unconscious content.” (Abstract of pg 457 – 469)

A wide arc I know, but purposefully rendered as Earth, Body, Process…