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|The St. Petersburg Experience: A Model of Working with A Developing Group|
|Congresses - 2004 Barcelona|
|Written by Multiple|
The bridges over the river Neva in St. Petersburg that open during the summer months to allow ships to pass from East to West, from West to East, hold the symbol which we have taken for the work of enabling the Developing Group in St. Petersburg to move forward. We will introduce this particular project to you as one possible pattern of growth, considering as a central theme, necessary adaptations and their limits. It has come about largely through the inspiration and devotion of Jan Wiener and Catherine Crowther, together with colleagues in St. Petersburg, especially Mikhail Reshetnikov, the Director of the East European Institute of Psychoanalysis, and Tatiana Rudakova, the Chair of the Developing Group.
Jan Wiener and Catherine Crowther describe the evolution of the structures comprising teaching, supervision and personal analysis. Sergey Manevsky, Treasurer of the Developing Group, who has just qualified as one of the first five individual members of the IAAP, will talk about the meaning of the spaces between visits. Arna Davis tells of our experiences as analysts in the programme of ‘shuttle’ analysis, and finally, Ann Shearer, one of the visiting supervisors, will reflect on the dynamics of supervision in St. Petersburg.
We congratulate our Russian colleagues on their determination, skill and hard work. and especially those who successfully passed their final exams in June and will be welcomed as individual members of the IAAP here in Barcelona.
Adaptation and its Limits
Mariusz Wilk (2003), in his fascinating book about Russia, The Journals of a White Sea Wolf, speaks about the age-old suspicion of Russians towards outsiders. He cautions inostranyetstsy (foreigners) against finding their bearings too quickly in a culture that does not lend itself to an ease of understanding,
Another caution to foreigners against presuming to understand Russian psychology comes from historian, Catherine Merridale (2001). She gives a moving account of interviews with ordinary Russians who lived through violence, hunger, disappearances and repression during the bulk of the twentieth century, about their attitudes to death and memory. She writes of the differences between Russian and Western attitudes to mental health:
We do not fully agree with this assessment. Our Russian colleagues and their patients are indeed painfully aware of making more conscious the toll of suffering. But it is important to realise the social context in which the new profession of psychoanalysis is working, and the complicated defensive dynamics surrounding the discussion of personal pain and loss. Merridale comments on the Russian people’s ‘lifetime’s habit of silence’ and the tendency to relate their lives not as tales of suffering but ‘in ways that comfort rather than distress them’. (p22) Echoing Wilk, she says ‘I remain uncertain whether mere visitors have a right to violate these people’s privacy’. (p. 22)
Yet this is just what we have embarked upon as analysts, in our assumption that there can be a deep unconscious meeting between one self and another. We are daunted to engage as foreigners with the immense background of cultural history so different from our own, realising that the conscious and unconscious effects of their past are carried by each individual Russian colleague into their work, their personal development and the ways they function in groups.
History and Structure of the Project
We first started our work in Russia in 1996, very naively it now seems, by exporting wholesale a training workshop for doctors and psychotherapists we had developed successfully in London over several years.
From Stalin’s time, psychoanalysis had been banned, so the naturally psychological Russian mind had been starved of contact with Western developments for almost three quarters of the twentieth century. As soon as perestroika and glasnost permitted, there was an enthusiastic resumption of the study and practice of psychoanalysis. President Yeltsin made a decree in 1996 to re-legitimise it as a profession. But without any existing analysts in Russia, the only internationally recognised training was abroad. Mikhail Reshetnikov, the Director of the East European Institute of Psychoanalysis in St. Petersburg, saw that international recognition was a vital necessity for Russian aspirations to become analysts. His constant emphasis was on the need for a home-grown training, responsive to the national context and culture, in which would-be analysts were locally supported in their clinical work by inostranets from the West. We respected his vision and quickly realised that for such a training to succeed it would have to be sustained as a long term commitment on both sides.
Our project could not have developed without the unwavering support of the IAAP and of Murray Stein and Christian Gaillard in particular, who have always had a clear vision of the potential for a Developing Group in St. Petersburg. It was also clear from the start we would have to raise extra funds ourselves, and we successfully applied for substantial grants. We started in 1998 with a two-year Introductory Course of lectures, reading-seminars and case discussions, open to graduates of the St Petersburg Institute with an interest in Jung. We started with twenty-eight students. We involved members of all four London Jungian societies as teachers, to represent different strands of our Jungian tradition. We sent a total of thirteen analysts for teaching weekends. At the end of this course, twenty-three students wrote dissertations showing their integration of Jungian ideas into their clinical work, and were presented in April 2001 with IAAP certificates of Course Completion. This course obtained Russian State approval.
In August 2001 the students became an IAAP Developing Group, and we embarked on Phase 2. This required a much heavier investment of staff time and teamwork, and of course, more money. In close consultation with the IAAP, we arranged to send six supervisors and four analysts to St Petersburg, each visiting four times a year and willing to commit themselves for a minimum of two years. They travelled in pairs, to support each other in what was pioneering work. The use of interpreters was always necessary, and we did not know whether analysis would prove viable in this mode. The analysts would spend six days, giving double sessions daily to three analysands each. Over two years, each individual would have 100 hours of analysis.
The provision of supervision was limited to sixteen people, divided into four groups of four supervisees. The supervisors visited for long weekends of two nights. Each supervisor would work with two groups consistently, thus giving each individual student a total of 150 hours supervision over two years.
This was an uncomfortable moment for the St Petersburg group, as their previous homogeneity now altered, with the division between those who wished to train as Jungian analysts and those whose interest in Jungian ideas was more general. The IAAP and its training requirements entered the frame, and inevitably affected our relationships. We also offered supervision places to two experienced psychotherapists from Moscow who had completed an earlier course in analytical psychology and had had personal analysis with an IAAP member living in Moscow.
In our concentration on what we saw as the urgent need for supervising and analysing, teaching received much less attention than before. We incorporated a lunchtime seminar each supervision weekend, and were grateful when various IAAP members offered their services free, combining a holiday in St Petersburg with lectures and seminars to our group.
Two other pieces of the jigsaw must be mentioned. The first is the vital role played by our skilled team of simultaneous interpreters, some of whom have been our companions consistently throughout the six years, and on whom we depend absolutely. Although we and our colleagues are trying to learn each other’s languages, the interpreters remain our conduits of communication, with their ability to reveal oblique nuances of emotional meaning.
The second jigsaw piece is the necessity of regular meetings in London between supervisors, and separately between analysts. We believe this has enabled the programme to be contained as a conceptual whole, as well as tracking the progress of our Russian colleagues and providing support to each other.
After two years, in Spring 2003, our colleagues submitted applications to become ‘routers’ towards individual membership of the IAAP. The result was another division of the Developing Group into different levels of progression, as some were deemed ready by the external examiners to progress to the intermediate exams and others to move immediately towards final exams in a year’s time. The ‘advanced routers’ then received a year of individual supervision in addition to group supervision and submitted a final dissertation. The same examiners returned this June 2004. To our delight, five people passed their intermediate exams and the five advanced routers were accepted as individual members of IAAP – the first generation of Jungian analysts in Russia! Next year we hope that more candidates will be ready to take their final exams, with another group close behind them. The vacancies now arising in the supervision groups allow a new generation of colleagues to join the programme. We are no longer teachers to the new IAAP members but have become consultants to their group. We are able to direct some of the recently joining members of the Developing Group to our new Russian IAAP colleagues for analysis and supervision, and can gaze a few years over the horizon when a Jungian training in St Petersburg will be locally viable and self-supporting. It has been important for all the candidates to have their level of attainment fully recognised on a scale of standards common to the international Jungian community. The exams have vindicated our view that an adapted home-grown training does not require standards to be lowered. For us, who are sometimes too close into our programme, the external perspective the examiners have provided a helpful snapshot, to which we respond.
The whole jigsaw would be in constant danger of fragmentation if we did not devote an enormous amount of attention to raising large amounts of money. All the London analysts give their time free. We have received regular annual doses of generous IAAP funding, but in Russia, there is no tradition of fundraising. We have had to take on the financial risk ourselves and to learn very quickly about raising money from the public. We formed a committee of dedicated volunteers, employed a professional fundraiser for a few hours a month, opened the charitable Russian Revival Fund and embarked on a series of charity events. We have arranged two successful concerts of Russian music, poetry and prose in London, with another planned this December. Our formula of engaging the highest quality performers and providing an enjoyable drinks reception in a beautiful venue seems to be working well, but involves much extra work. Our committee seeks sponsorship from companies and individuals with interests in Russia, to cover our expenses, so that all ticket sales and donations go to the IAAP programme. An athletic SAP member also organised a sponsored cycle ride from John O’ Groats to Lands End.
We have raised over 60,000 euros over the past three years but our budget requires 75,000 for the next two years, including the new programme in Moscow. We have lived dangerously in hand to mouth fashion for years, with reckless faith that we will be able to raise the necessary funds to honour our commitment to our Russian colleagues.
The Shuttle Programme
Our programme has a particular and distinct rhythm, known as ‘shuttle’. There are frequent arrivals and separations, presence and absence, gaps and contact, nourishment and deprivation, dependency and resentment. The strain in these opposites has been hard to hold at times, and we have struggled together to give birth to a third position. Our title, ‘Adaptation and its Limits’, is born out of these tensions. ‘Shuttle’ in this context derives from the days of the Cold War and ‘shuttle diplomacy’, which the dictionary defines as diplomatic negotiations conducted by a mediator travelling between disputing parties. This disturbing association reminds us we cannot ignore the possibility of hostile shadow feelings at the heart of our mediating venture. A more helpful definition for us is: Bobbin with two pointed ends used in weaving for carrying the thread of the weft across between the threads of the warp. We think we are creating something purposeful together which is greater than the sum of its parts and where the energy of the British ‘to and fro’ connects productively with the stability and permanence of the Russian loom.
Our Role as Liaison Officers
We constantly encounter new complications in our role. We need to think responsibly in broad brush strokes about the project as a whole, while at the same time attending to the more subtle tones of dynamic issues arising within the Developing Group. Then there are the fine lines of the interpersonal dynamics when we work as individual and small group supervisors.
What is essential is the frame – to preserve as sacrosanct the predictability and rhythm of the shuttle programme. We have been as consistent as we can about maintaining schedules, boundaries and confidentiality for the supervision groups and analysis. This makes no allowance for the unexpected and we have sometimes been confronted with a crisis, at the limits of what adaptation can bear. As organisers, the two of us attract a more parental projection and are expected to act as ‘troubleshooters’ to help deal with conflicts, teething problems, anger with each other and with us. By analogy, it is difficult dealing openly with anger and disagreement when the parents keep disappearing. We often seem to be ‘working on the edge’, making the most of the minutes available, having impromptu meetings outside set times, in corridors and cafes. We have to judge and prioritise, pick up what is really important, and it is only after several years experience that we are more confident of processing our ‘cultural counter-transference’ more effectively.
Issues of authority and power constantly challenge us. Formal authority as liaison officers was bestowed on us by the IAAP and sanctioned from below by members of the Developing Group. This gives us the sometimes daunting right to make decisions that are binding on those we work with (Obholzer, 1994, p. 39). Power is more personal and much less to do with a role. Internally, it comes from our knowledge, experience, strength of personality and state of mind about our role (Obholzer, 1994, p. 42). Travelling together as a working pair has been a helpful insurance against the dangers of becoming either authoritarian ‘officers’, or demoralized about failures of ‘liaison’. The possibility that this internal dynamic may reflect the long history of Russian experiences of leadership has not passed us by.
Consciousness about what we are doing and what needs to change arrives at times like a thunderbolt – why did we not see that before? At other times, it arrives in slow measured doses. Initially, we were inclusive, exercising little authority by accepting everyone into the programme. The two years of teaching weekends had sowed the seeds of interest for establishing a Developing Group. Analogous to communist principles, everyone was equal and group dynamics seemed benign.
It was during the process to elect officers of the new Developing Group that we observed in our Russian colleagues the difficulty of managing difference. Retrospectively, we realise that our familiarity with democratic procedures led us to underestimate the unconscious constraints of introducing an arrangement of ‘leaders’ and ‘followers’. We did not allow enough space for working through. Earl Hopper (2003a, p. 154) writes that when traumatic events are not given sufficient space to be worked through, they are repeated in different forms. His words have often echoed in our ears when the dynamics within the group and towards us have generated anger, rivalry and envy. This occurred first, when visiting UK analysts had insufficient vacancies to accommodate all those requesting personal analysis. And later, when external examiners appraised our students at different levels of readiness to become analysts. Our model of work privileged clinical supervision and personal ‘shuttle’ analysis over group work, specifically to meet the prerequisites for applications for individual membership. It was only recently when one member of the group complained ‘the Developing Group is falling apart, we must have a meeting’, that we realised the costs of our strategy and its possibly dangerous neglect of attention to group process.
We have felt envious of the Developing Group in Poland who have favoured group therapy as a way of creating a holding environment and container for anxiety which they have discovered can also be educational (Mathers, Palmer Barnes and Noac, in press).
During a visit to the UK, Christian Gaillard asked a question that produced one of those thunderbolts of consciousness. He asked, ‘how will you separate from the Developing Group’? We were confronted with our unconscious identification with our role as parents, deeply concerned for the future of our analytic children in a way that could hinder their development.
Bion (1961) thought that institutions, like individuals, develop defences against what is painful or difficult – in Jungian terms, organisational complexes (Lepper, 1994). Bion thought that much of the irrational and chaotic behaviour in groups comes from three basic assumptions: dependency, fight-flight and pairing. Christian Gaillard’s question helped us to see that for the most part, the Developing Group was functioning as a dependency group, with a culture of subordination requiring obedience. They have wanted us to look after them. More recently however, there have been signs of fight-flight.
We are interested in the relevance to our Developing Group of Hopper’s (2003b) fourth basic assumption in the unconscious life of groups that have a collective history of trauma and loss. Such groups are notable for their lack of cohesion.
Christian’s question was a turning point, allowing us to begin to separate from our Russian colleagues, achieve greater clarity about our aims, and work more constructively with these primitive defences. Acknowledging that we are a scarce resource, we have become firmer. We asked one unsuitable member of the supervision programme to leave. Recently, we interviewed eleven new applicants for vacancies in the supervision programme. We accepted only those four likely to be ready to apply for individual membership in a few years. We delegated firmly to members of the Developing Group, the task of initiating conferences, seminars and workshops for those interested in analytical psychology.
The Russian Self
Margaret Little (1986, p. 279), writing in the 1970s about Winnicott‘s idea of the false self, quotes the Russian dissident Bukovsky. When people asked ‘How could you survive the prison camps and psychiatric prisons?’ He replied: ‘If there is that core in you, nothing can touch it’. This is the inviolable survival of the self.
The theories of analysis we use are rooted in a Western emphasis on individualism. While Jungian psychology upholds the collective and promises some universals across cultures (Young-Eisendrath, 1997), a question that concerns us is what has happened to the self of our Russian colleagues? What has been the effect of many years spent living in a communist regime privileging collective equality over individuality? More personally, could our work together in analysis and clinical supervision permit access to the self?
The intuitive answer to our own question is a definite yes. What has permitted this has been our presence, albeit discontinuous. We are more sceptical about a model involving telephone, email or video supervision. It is our verbal and non-verbal modelling of a particular attention and concern that has been internalised and forms the core of analytic potential in our students and allows analysts from different cultures to work together productively.
Roland (1996, p. 19-20) thinks that in those cultures where the self is more private and not to be intruded upon, the capacity for empathic intuitive sensing becomes more finely tuned. Verbal expression is reserved for proper social etiquette in hierarchical relationships. John Beebe, after a visit to St. Petersburg, observed how even when working through an interpreter, he made a heart to heart connection with the Russians through an introverted feeling function. This kind of communication is beyond words and attends to the value of something from a more objective, archetypal perspective, transcending social and cultural differences.
Our theme has been adaptation and its limits. Do we feel what we are doing is working? Have we successfully adapted to our Russian colleagues? We think the answer must be yes, if our measure is the qualification of the first five Russian analytical psychologists here in Barcelona and the promise of further IAAP members in the next few years. But what of its limits? Our model of work with a Developing Group has involved a high investment of personnel from the United Kingdom, a high risk investment of financial resources, all within a professional work ethos upheld by Mikhail Reshetnikov, of home-grown analysts supported by inostranets from the West. Scarce resources inevitably involve compromise and have limited the structures we have made to attend to the complicated interpersonal dynamics of a group of people trying to work together democratically in a culture where democracy has been unfamiliar.
The St. Petersburg Experience has required the capacity to relinquish orthodoxy in favour of individuality, and has involved much improvisation, triggered by a series of key events. It has taken the best part of six years to learn how to adapt and to realise our mutual limitations. Rather like a long analysis, it is not for the fainthearted (Crowther and Wiener 2002).
Samuels (2002) thinks that an intense ‘training at the frontier’ with stringent prerequisites and standards is not needed. He advocates pluralism and a more integrative approach, asking us to drop our ‘rigid adherence to a single modality of psychotherapy and to make the achievement of integrative psychotherapy less demanding on all of us’. We do not agree. We are specialists, not generalists, and we offer our knowledge and experience as Jungian analysts. Although it has been vital to adapt what we know to a different culture, we have not diluted our usual standards of practice, even for those who do not wish to pursue IAAP membership.
We began as outsiders and in many ways, we remain outsiders, mindful of Wilk’s dangers of putting together a collage or an album of snapshots from a series of visits rather than an integrated whole. It is now up to our Russian colleagues to create structures and decide how best to offer opportunities for those interested in Jungian ideas. The challenge will come during the next few years as we struggle together with the painful process of gradual separation that is essential to the individuation process of this Developing Group.
The Space of Intervals
Let us not think that the title is mere paradox. I would like to emphasize two aspects of life – topos and chronos. I mean the existence of Analytical Psychology Developing Group (APDG) members in the particular space of St. Petersburg throughout six years. The issue is not about space in general, but about concrete space, which has limits.
Aristotle in his “Physics” regarded place (topos) as the most important concept. Place is where something happens; place is a holder, container, vessel. St. Petersburg represents the container in all its archetypal essence. The layout of the city is organized according to both square and circle principles, like a mandala. St. Petersburg has always been the place where cultures met and became synthesized (Ugric and Slavic, Scandinavian and Russian, eastern and western cultures). The development of the IAAP project was possible due to the particular place, the East European Institute of Psychoanalysis, whose director, Mikhail Reshetnikov, is open to contacts from abroad.
The category of time, chronos, is equally polysemantic. Time is a state of continuous changes or, according to Heraclitus, “transformation”. Change is important in itself, but the state of repose is equally essential – the opportunity and ability to “be” (according to Parmenides’ concept of “being”), when one can critically review what has been achieved. We live in continuous and discontinuous time.
Since 1998, when the IAAP project began, our group generally, and each member in particular, has undergone numerous changes, some commonly shared, others experienced individually and differently. What we all had in common was reading the available literature, trying to penetrate deep into the meaning of Jungian texts. Our knowledge became more profound. But putting this knowledge to practical use was, of course, individual. It became obvious during our supervisions when we variously presented our cases: some of us preferred dream material, others accentuated dynamic aspects of the setting.
In the beginning we all had hopes and expectations. There were many illusions. The whole project, though not quite clear, was very attractive. Some people, however, soon lost interest in the project. Of the initial number, only about fourteen participants now remain in the group. In 1998 the IAAP project was one of the first foreign projects with a long-term outlook and commitment. In St. Petersburg at that time, many people lacked professional and therapeutic experience. It was only two years since the first graduates had completed their four-year course in the East European Institute of Psychoanalysis. We therapist-beginners were in the power of a ‘beginning’ archetype – the beginning of practice, the beginning of one more apprenticeship, in the IAAP project. There were also other motives: some people hoped for a seemingly quick acquisition of new professional status and authority, one more persona. Those expectations did not come true: it is impossible to obtain professional identity without sacrifice, without giving up some former, rather static attitudes. We know that separation is always difficult, whether it concerns theory (changing opinions) or personal relations. Sometimes I had to cope with aggressive behaviour from my colleagues and my own reaction. Nevertheless, our development eventually evolved into a ‘working alliance’.
The training course opened up excellent opportunities of acquiring knowledge from specialists whose active clinical practice carried on the Jungian tradition. Although we had been able to read Jungian texts, our personal communication with many Jungians gave us strong support while we started moving along this chosen road. Those were remarkable feelings: talking with someone whom we previously knew only from books and papers. The experience of live communication cannot compare with anything else, receiving new emotional experience from the representatives of another culture.
We developed a balance between presenting theoretical and practical material (lectures, seminars, case presentations). Each member of the group was given an opportunity to express his/her opinion (orally or in questionnaires), to discuss questions of interest, to share clinical experience, and to receive tactful and appropriate help. This has been true of all the specialists working in the program in different capacities: our lecturers, supervisors, analysts, examiners and sponsors.
The general atmosphere in the post-Jungian community in different places and situations enhanced our confidence in the work we were doing. We appreciated the support and two-way exchange around our individual work, and to feel their understanding of its cultural specificity. ‘Words teach, examples convince, ’ the Latins used to say. Our self-confidence increased through being taught by example, with the analysts revealing their weak points to us, taking us seriously, not as their pupils but as colleagues.
However, not only the direct work (supervisions, lectures, analysis) was filling the topos. Our particular circumstances afforded us ground for “being” in the intervals between supervision and analytic sessions. In the beginning, feelings about the interrupted character of personal shuttle-analysis were particularly complicated. It was difficult to form a working alliance. Moreover, analysands had different levels of proficiency in English – from ‘zero’ level to fluent use. Archetypal levels of transference towards shuttle analysis showed themselves distinctly in images and dreams with flights, birds, and ships. This is what we lived through in the space of the gaps.
The presence of an interpreter in the session complicated the transference. Some participants found it difficult to manage the divided transference. In particular, not knowing the language sometimes provoked aggression towards the interpreter as well as the analyst. Gradually, analysands acquired the skill to exclude the interpreter from the transference, and to discriminate the feelings related to the interpreter from analytic feelings. The style of each interpreter’s behaviour was also essential – the skill to participate with voice only, to translate without introducing their own emotions into the analysis. Some interpreters even tried to stay out of the analysand’s sight.
Gradually we made a virtue of our difficulties. There appeared an opportunity to use the pauses associated with oral translation for deepening and intensifying the work, for listening to our feelings and sensations. Non-English speaking analysands activated non-verbal contacts (perception of voice and analytic space). Their feelings had more space for expression than in verbalization, exactly because of the difficulty of “translating” feelings into the image system of a foreign language. For myself, I listened to English as attentively as to Russian. It was something like amplification – meanings expanded in the spaces.
The professional path, being part of individuation, is not always smooth. Sometimes, as a young patient of mine said, ‘good shakes hands with evil’. He was talking not about the struggle between good and evil, but rather about the muddle in his soul. He defined the confusion of shadow and heroic aspects of his personality as “witchcraft”. We ourselves had to deal with something like “witchcraft”, first on our own, then with the help of the analyst.
After two or three shuttle visits, the strangeness disappeared, and the image of “my analyst” began to take shape. The work was no less intensive than in a traditional framework. Monthly intervals were productively used: self-analysis, making notes of dreams, keeping a diary, were helpful for many participants. Descartes is right to say that even the void is filled with presence.
Intervals between the visits of analysts were filled with the everyday work of the group and each individual member. Each participant grew into their own reality. Like complexes in the structure of a person, some aspects of the APDG became autonomous, yielding appreciable positive results. In particular, we are now ourselves designing an introductory course on analytical psychology; the regular publication of the Annual APDG Conference papers continues; in cooperation with Valery Zelensky the ‘Analytic Psychology Development Fund of C.G. Jung’ has been set up.
If we imagine the analytic process as a journey from illusion to the loss of it, and then towards reality, then we can justifiably apply it to this project. Evidence to prove this point is the fact that we are here, in this place, Barcelona. The space of intervals is decreased.
Adapting to an Unsafe Frame
St Petersburg, the capital city of the Tzars of All the Russians.
Leningrad, the city of terror and the siege.
The resurgent St Petersburg, again Peter’s window on the west.
St Petersburg, the city where Jane Knight, Robin McGlashan, Yvette Wiener and I have worked as analysts over the past three years. All four of us have contributed to this short presentation.
Accepting the invitation to work as analysts in a foreign country seemed both reckless and foolhardy, but was also an irresistible challenge. Of course there were doubts and questions, mainly about ourselves. Would we, in these strange and extraordinary circumstances, be able to be at least good enough analysts? Would the ‘shuttle analysis’ give our analysands an experience of being understood and held, thus allowing the psychic growth that leads to individuation? What would psychic growth mean to an individual in a society that is only just beginning to emerge from the suppression of individualistic views and original thinking?
We have embarked on the journey each time with hopeful anticipation but also some anxiety. It is quite disconcerting to be in a foreign country where the normal props that give comfort and a sense of belonging are missing, and to be so obviously an alien. On the other hand it is also a liberating, enriching experience. Each time we have made new discoveries about the world around us, as well as continuing to come face to face with unknown parts within, thus changing our preconceived perceptions and ourselves.
There has been an added personal dimension. On my very first visit, in April 2001, as I was looking at the freely-flowing river Neva carrying blocks of ice from lake Ladoga towards the Gulf of Finland, I remembered vividly the idyllic summers of my early childhood, spent in my grandparents’ dacha on the Karelian shores of that lake. Then came the war, the Great Patriotic one for the Russians, for the Finns a desperate struggle to keep their young independence. For us, the price of that was the loss of Karelia. Strands of my life have come together during these thirteen journeys to St Petersburg. It has been possible for the warring internal opposites of a Russian enemy and a patriotic Finn, both victims of and wounded by the same war, to be reconciled.
That spring day also brought back the importance of seasons for people living in the North. I knew the seasonal rhythms of the Russian soul would resonate within me. Starting in the spring, with ice thawing, and then moving towards the incredible light of summer, felt hopeful. Autumn would come in its splendid glory, already holding the melancholy of the approaching winter, followed by the endless months of cold and darkness, the frozen beauty and the autistic stillness, and then a new spring and summer. Ending my visits this June, in the season of white nights, felt right. Summer is a time of healing and restoring energy. After her last session with me, one of my analysands was pleased to go straight to the family dacha, where she would grow flowers and give space for her psychic process to continue.
Adapting to an Unsafe Frame
I have called this paper ‘Adapting to an unsafe frame’. The ‘shuttle analysis’ has been organised as four visits of five days duration each year. During those visits we have offered each analysand ten sessions, and each analyst has had three analysands.
I would like to share with you the kind of adaptations to the traditional ground rules of analysis that both we, as analysts, and also the analysands, needed to accept. The basic, long established and agreed ground rules for professional analytic work were changed and challenged in three main areas. Firstly, the setting; secondly, the presence of a third, an interpreter, into the confidential and intimate dyad of patient and analyst, due to our inability to speak Russian; thirdly, the long gaps between our visits, on the one hand, and the intensity of ten sessions in five days, on the other. In addition, the analytic work has been done in a country where the strict but secure frame of communism has only recently collapsed, where people are still in a state of anxiety and uncertainty, and where there is chaos and disorder but also a spirit of reconstruction.
An essential part of the safety of an analytic frame is that the analyst provides a secure and confidential space in which analysis can be done, and that she, as a person, is free from her own anxieties. Our working space in St Petersburg was not in our control. Initially we all saw our analysands at the Institute of Psychoanalysis, a walking distance from our accommodation. I continued to do so for the three years; for me the institutional container was important. It is true that the various consulting rooms I have had the use of have at times been far from perfect. In an amazing way the analysands have been able to focus on the work and not allow external disturbances to become a hindrance. Two of my colleagues opted to work in the private homes of our landladies, feeling slightly more in control of the setting there. Working as aliens in a foreign country brings up many anxieties on a personal level, not least when things go wrong and help is needed. We have all experienced that once in the room with our analysands professional confidence returns easily, and in spite of the far from perfect frame, trust in the analytic process develops.
As none of us speaks Russian, verbal exchanges have been possible only by having an interpreter present as mediator. Of course we wondered what effect having a third in the room would have on the intimate two-way process of analysis, and what would be lost in the translation or by the analysand using a foreign tongue when speaking of feeling experiences. On the first visit we discussed several options for where the interpreter was to sit, and we each worked out our own solution. The main concern was that she would be able to speak unobtrusively, without in any way getting between the analyst who is listening more, and the analysand.
None of my three analysands spoke English, but two of the other analysts had one person using English and could see what difference speaking in a foreign tongue made to their analysis. The feedback I have is that some spontaneity and access to the pre-verbal world was lost. Also, speaking in the same language does not automatically mean that we understand each other.
From time to time there has been an awareness of needing to find words that are not likely to be beyond the interpreter’s vocabulary. There are also times when the interpreter misunderstands and translates incorrectly what is said. There is a doubt that the words are still our words: they might be correct but seem to have lost their colour, their music, their flesh. Camus writes of the alienation and confusion of the child with a mother who does not hear or speak. Would I become such an alienating mother? This has been a question each of us kept in mind.
Of course the interpreter also receives transference projections: for example for one analysand, she represented the older sister who blocked access to mother, causing in her feelings of resentment and rivalry. As the work has progressed and trust has grown, it has become easier to accept the presence of a third. The interpreter has become a necessary working tool. But of course we as analysts are aware that feelings and thoughts may arise in her through the process, and that the interpreter needs to be cared for.
For our deepest communication we have trusted in the unconscious process doing its work; so much happens within and beyond the words. Silences acquire a numinous, almost sacred quality. There is also an advantage in the timing: simply looking at the analysand, observing their facial expression, body language and tone of voice without having to pay attention to words, and then receiving the translated words. The double sessions initially felt very long, time seemed almost to stand still, but we soon saw that they are essential. The pace slows down considerably when words have to be repeated through the interpreter.
Long Gaps and the Intensity of Ten Sessions in Five Days
Our Russian colleagues have all had experiences of ‘shuttle analysis’. For us, accepting that the usual rhythm and tempo of analysis, where ongoing safe holding is an essential part of the contract, would not be on offer, did arouse both questions and some anxiety. What would be the quality of an analysis if the analyst could not provide uninterrupted holding, and the analysand had to adapt to repeated experiences of unwanted, untimely separations from the caring, thinking other?
All three of my analysands had learnt ‘self management’ patterns early in their childhood. My concern has been that the reality of the ’holding and dropping’ in ‘shuttle analysis’ re-enforces the original defences. On my twelfth visit this March one of the analysands voiced my fears, saying that ‘shuttle analysis’ is playing at analysis, not the real thing. ‘There is no safety of contained holding’. ‘What is the point of opening up and lowering defences when, in the analyst’s absence, the defences are no longer there when needed to contain the unwanted feelings flooding the mind?’
Is it a sign of success that the analysands now, as our work was coming to its final phase, had the courage to voice their protest and anger, not only towards me but also that we from the west came and imposed our ways without knowing enough about them and where they were?
In spite of the faulty, broken frame, an environment of trust has been created in which emotional growth has taken place. Over the whole period of ‘shuttle analysis’ a rhythm has developed and we worked together in this continuing sequence. I do think that the intensity of the ten sessions in five days has allowed an extraordinary, almost womb-like experience, and that in addition the working alliance has created conditions in which thinking about feelings and understanding past events has been possible. People carry with them their parents’ and grandparents’ history. One analysand’s father was wounded in the most terrible battle of the Great Patriotic War, the Second World War. He only just survived and barely spoke of the experience. The analysand was carrying the burden of his grief and his guilt as a survivor when so many had perished.
The analysands also carried inside them the collective experiences of so many Russian families of a missing father, replaced by a three-generational female family of babushka, mother and child. This left me with unanswered questions: what have the consequences been of adapting to this unsafe family frame, and what are they for the future?
This June I made my last trip to St Petersburg. I am now able to join my analysands in saying: ‘All is well that ends well’. The ‘shuttle analysis’ has worked for them. It is true that at times it has felt a hazardous and deeply painful journey, coloured by doubt and uncertainty, by the sharp opposites of holding and dropping, and by abandoning, but with the hope of returning. It has been a unique experience of education and transformation as much for us, the analysts, as, I trust, for our analysands.
Supervision Strange and Familiar
On my first visit to St Petersburg, l was struck immediately by its familiarity. Through photographs and descriptions, I ‘knew’ how it looked; thanks to Peter the Great’s determinedly Westward-focused gaze, l ‘recognised’ its appearance through a common aesthetic. But just as the reality of life in the decayed buildings behind those elegant facades was barely imaginable to me, so its weight of history and culture made it extraordinarily strange. As with the collective, so with the personal: in our common appreciation of Jung’s psychology, l felt an instant warmth and familiarity with Russian colleagues. In the realities and expectations of the lives to which we all returned after our brief meetings, there was strangeness.
After ten visits since December 2002, this tension between ‘the familiar’ and ‘the strange’ still runs through my experience, both personal and as a supervisor. Into the tension come the questions, and although they are mine, it has been essential to be able to discuss them with and learn from Jack Bierschenk, with whom I travel, and the other supervisors, present and past: Warren Colman, Catherine Crowther, Helen Morgan, and Jan Wiener. The meetings of the St Petersburg supervisors and analysts to prepare this presentation have been important too. Most of all, the questions would never even have been asked without the growing and valued relationship with Russian supervisees.
Questions of Politics
It is perhaps too easy when ‘at home’ to forget that psychotherapeutic work has a ‘political’ dimension. Here it can’t be ignored. What can I assume as common psychological experience when I come from a country whose history has been so radically different? In working from a version of Jung’s theories built up in Switzerland and England (though by no means from work with exclusively English analysands) am I imposing a familiarity on psychological strangeness? With membership of the IAAP as the goal for Russian colleagues, are we entering into a collusion of colonisation? What will a Russian understanding of Jung’s psychology be like?
These are big questions. But they are also part of the supervisory relationship, with its inbuilt tension between imparting a collective ethos about psychotherapy and its practice and enabling a new and uniquely individual therapeutic identity to emerge. Wherever it is practised, supervision is a complicated business. A super-vision has by its overview a broader and longer perspective than the eye which is narrowly trained. But that broad view must also miss the details. A supervisor is an overseer, which may conjure images of protective guidance as well as brutal insistence on production-line quotas. But an oversight means too that something has been overlooked, something missed. Issues of power can never be far away, particularly if the supervision is part of an analytic training. Yet supervisors are in a sense powerless too, their work resting on sequences of events and exchanges that have already happened in their absence. ‘Control analysts’ as they are still often known in German, are not in control (Shearer, 2003a). Individual supervisors have traditionally made what they can of this complexity, and supervision has evolved without an accepted body of theory. Yet most writers about it seem to agree on one important starting point: that supervision is a relationship in which both parties can be changed. (Wiener, Mizen and Duckham, 2003). For me, the St Petersburg experience certainly and valuably bears that out.
Questions of Culture
On my very first visit to St Petersburg, we were discussing a patient who had retired to bed for a long period, in what seemed a deep depression. One day, he quite unexpectedly got up and announced that he was going to visit the wizard. The wizard? I was sure my interpreter had got it wrong, but then realised that no one else was at all surprised. Thus l was introduced to the culture of traditional healers and ‘magicians’, for whom there are, by one recent report, more than 100 licensed schools in Russia, and who officially outnumber psychiatrists and psychotherapists by twelve-to-one (Haynes, 2004).
So I constantly need to check my assumptions. What, at the limit, is the goal of psychotherapy in this culture? ‘Individuation’ may seem secondary indeed to establishing a job, if lucky a flat, and a sort of stability in a very far from stable society. (And it may emphatically not.)
Questions of Practice
As one example: what does the concept of privacy – elaborated in the West over so long and so defining to the aspiring and professional classes – mean in a culture where it has for much of the twentieth century been officially taboo and so many have lived in communal or corridor flats? What does our Western insistence on ‘therapeutic boundaries’ in the relationship between analyst and patient mean in such a collective context, and where the small home space in which the supervisee practises is shared with family members who may be coming and going during sessions? The issue of boundaries has come up constantly in supervision. Colleagues have adapted a great deal to accepted Western norms, particularly about regular times for and duration of appointments and what they do or don’t let on about themselves. How do these conventions sit with general cultural expectations of what ‘relationship’ is about? I don’t know the answer. But l do finally recognise the importance of the shared tea break that comes between the ‘official’ starting time of supervision sessions and the actual.
Questions of Theory
One example: what is the collective as well as individual experience of the parental complexes, where the actual or psychological absence of father and corresponding redefinition of the very notion of ‘mother’ have been such a dramatically widespread socio-economic reality over at least two generations? What relevance do Western definitions of ‘good enough parenting’ have here? Another example: how are the relations between the individual and the collective, which are so basic to Jung’s theories, experienced in a land where the reality has for so long been the grievous subjection of the one to the other?
For me, there are still many more questions than answers, especially so because I lack the privileged educational experience of working here as an analyst. But one thing does become increasingly evident: although the questions are highlighted and emphasised in the St Petersburg experience, in fact they are also questions intrinsic to psychotherapy – and so to supervision too. So I’m brought back to my starting point: wherever the work, the tension between individual and collective is bound to throw up questions of politics and of culture, and these are bound to affect theory and practice. The analytical relationship is unlike any other, wherever we practise. So the St Petersburg experience, which seems so ‘strange’, is also quite ‘familiar’.
Jung’s theory offers a good working container within which to explore this. Critics say he swept historical, cultural, and political dimensions of human individuality away into the maw of archetypes and the collective unconscious; but actually he was the first to try to elaborate a psychology which could take account of national and cultural differences, however crude and often distasteful his attempts may seem today (Samuels, 2002). He was insistent too that an understanding of ‘traditional and cultural influences’ could often play a decisive part in psychotherapy itself: ‘the psychotherapist has to acquaint himself not only with the personal biography of his patient, but also with the mental and spiritual assumptions prevalent in his milieu, both present and past’ (Jung, 1957, p. viii). His approach has been usefully elaborated in the concepts of the ’cultural unconscious’ as that dimension of the collective unconscious which consists of ‘particular, concrete, local contents that are idiomatic to a specific culture’ (Vannoy Adams, 2001, p. 522), and of ‘cultural complexes’ which ‘allow us to relate psychologically to cultural factors that operate beyond the individual but intersect with the individual’s sense of self’ (Kimbles, 2000, p. 160}. At a personal and intrapersonal level, often at a cultural one as well, Jung’s psychology can also be seen as one long and continuing dialogue with the Other (e.g. Papadopoulos, 1984, Hauke, 2000, Shearer, 2003(b)). A further distinction between the ‘exotic’ and the ‘familiar’ Other and the way in which the first tends to subjugate the second, has helped me not to get caught up in dramatic cultural differences at the expense of relating to ones that lie between each and any individual (Papadopoulos, 2002).
Learning through Limits
For all the theory, though, it is the work that brings the real education. Some of the limitations to understanding are plain. We are so taken up with supervision that there is little time to exchange more general ideas about the purpose of psychotherapy and each other’s culture. That sort of exchange takes trust too, and the long and irregular gaps between visits have made building that a slow process. This has also been complicated by an understanding of supervisor as ‘teacher’ rather than ‘ senior colleague’, and dynamics among members of the supervision groups which the structure of the programme has left (we can say in retrospect) too long unaddressed. And we don’t speak each other’s language! The need for interpreters has particular implications for supervision. Does the interpreter pause because she is searching for the word, because the supervisee is searching, or because of some parallel process between what is happening here and the relationship of supervisee and patient? And what is going on between all of us, when the interpreter brings a fourth to augment the already complicated triangle of supervisor, supervisee and patient? If four is the number of completion, what is being completed?
Too early to tell that! But one thing does seem plain. Whatever the limitations of the St Petersburg programme, and whatever the questions it throws up, it seems to be effective. The work of analysis alongside supervision is certainly significant. But more than this, what is happening seems an important demonstration of the reality of Jung’s notion of objective psyche: it works on its own account, and we are learning from and through it. Psyche, says Jung, is ‘an intervention in the existing natural order, and no one can say with certainty where this intervention will finally end’ (Jung, 1954, §423). Amen to that! But supervision now seems a very different experience from what it was at my first visit. We have grown in confidence in each other and the work and our discussions are more open and mutually helpful. There is a greater understanding of what happens between supervisee and patient and ability to articulate this. People are taking on their own authority and identity as therapists. Together we seem to be learning about the strange and the familiar – between and among the patients, each other and our own selves.