A Villa Around the Tree

Catharine Jones
Chicago, Illinois, USA
Chicago Society of Jungian Analysts

The heart of training is one’s experience and the meaning of that experience. The image of a tree in the center of a courtyard is a symbol of that living experience. And this emerges from one’s reflections on the complexes and experiences, the prima materia, the massa confusa of one’s life.

Analysis and supervision instruction and sometimes group process are the framework of our training institute. The philosophy centers around valuing and presenting the interdependence of the various Jungian schools of thought (see Andrew Samuels, Jung and the Post-Jungians), archetypal, clinical, and developmental perspectives in Jungian thought and the interweaving of other psychological schools of thought: Kohutian, Kleinian, Lacanian.

Each one of us translates her affective and imaginal experience into gestures, language, or images or affect. This translation is vital to being understood and of understanding others and oneself. Learning and using this translation of experience is, for me, the core of training and of Jung’s psychology seen as the experiencing and the understanding of the experience of the complex.

As the ego is a complex, our goal, then is to develop a maturing ego structure that can be flexible and reflective and can hold the tension of conflicting energies arising from the unconscious processes of other complexes.

For me the genius of training and analytical work is implicit in the concept of the complex and in the further development of this concept. With a growing consciousness and awareness and understanding of this concept we become able to experience, name, describe the felt sense, the living experience of psyche’s work. Here is the tree, growing from the matrix of one’s experience. The central touchstone, the focus, is to be available and relate to the core of our experiences, the deeper energies of complex.

Picture as an image Jung’s work as a villa, an image of an expansive, open villa around a tree, the symbol of Self, in the middle of a central courtyard. For me, this image informs my understanding of the living dynamic of our complexes in an around this living tree. The tree represents our psychic life that grows and reaches beyond our origins. This tree becomes the outgrowth of our work with the complexes and represents the central process of individuation in the middle of a built structure of theory and analytic tradition, the villa. The tree comes from the living complexes rooted in the massa confusa, the depths of the earth, the prima materia. We can further imagine that this tree branches out and spreads to other parts of the earth beyond the confines of the villa.

I – Premise

If we are to develop a finely-tuned ego complex, that is ever reflective and open to revision, I believe we need to engage the intricacies of the phenomenona of the felt complexes as they manifest in the relationship with the other, both personally and culturally. I believe that we need to develop our understanding of the minutia, and in so doing we strengthen the ego’s ability to observe, hold and endure the tension of opposites of the mostly unconscious complexes. We constantly need fresh scientific or poetic language if we are to adequately describe the process of staying with the phenomena of the complex, whether through movement, art, active imagination, dream work, sand tray, journal writing.

In their Word Association Test, Jung and others began to reflect on the phenomena of one’s hidden experience and demonstrated the vital relationship of body and psyche. Jung warned that all too often we rely on “linguistic surrogates” rather than experience the complex itself. And for some reason we have moved into a more abstract theoretical understanding. Have we focused mainly on the individual manifestations of the complex personally and biologically or have we focused mainly on an abstract image or theory?

Oddly, it is this very area that Jung did not follow through, in my opinion. Was that because of an aversion to “body” by the society in which he lived? Or to his caution of abreaction and getting stuck there? In a recent biography of Jung we learned of what seems to me is his extreme reserve around physical touch. How did that influence him? And yet there was great interest in the Word Association Test, which works with the verbal and bodily responses, showing the shadow aspects of the a person’s psyche, what Jung called “the dynamics of complex.”

II – Analytical Training

In analytic training we come to see the necessary value of holding the tension of the competing feelings and judgments, the challenging interplay between tending the area around the living tree and yet preserving the carefully built structures of theory, and of adding to the villa in which we can live and grow.

I believe there are five components in training: one’s analysis, one’s supervision, the instruction, the group process, and the often neglected area of the public sphere, “the problems of the age” as Giegerich puts it. Naturally, one brings one’s patterns of expectation, history, cultural traditions, work experience, personal biases and needed growth areas to bear in the process of analysis and training. The issue of Complex is central to all.

Without our tending to the tree of one’s self knowing, one’s own development of one’s sense of self (ego), feeling, relating to our complexes, theory becomes empty, dry, useless. Always, there is the tension, the interplay of practice and theory so necessary to one’s movement in analytic training.

A. Analysis: The practice as a space partly in the villa, partly in the courtyard.

As we know, either through choice or a crisis, it takes courage to relate to an other. It takes a sense of safety and courage to share one’s feelings and thoughts. It takes a leap of faith to share one’s assumptions about life, to openly reflect on one’s personal and public experience, one’s traditions, one’s behavior, one’s fears and desires, one’s sense of place in the world in work and love.

The critical thing is one’s ability to balance experience and reflection, to balance introspection, intuition, awareness of one’s self and one’s effect on others with one’s feelings and thoughts. It takes time to untangle the threads of feelings and thoughts and images and to stay with the variations of our complexes.

B. Supervision

In the first and second year of training in Chicago we have a group supervision class and the training program will extend it to four years beginning in the fall of 2005. We have found the group supervision to give candidates a container in which to safely speak out, and a place to ground one’s understanding of analytical thought and how it emerges from the clinical work. This provides a fundamental influence on the evolution of one’s readiness and appropriateness to participate and work as an analyst. Candidates begin supervision their first year. And after passing the propadeuticum, they enter control supervision.

For analysts at our Institute we hold seminars every two years on supervision. We are beginning to focus on the overlapping issues that arise with concurrent analysis and training.

C. Instruction

Our training program currently teaches Jung’s Collected Works in chronological order over four years. In this time candidates begin to see Jung’s development of ideas. In discussing Jung’s theory, it is important to see the sitz im leben, and various biographies of Jung are most helpful here, of course, Deirdre Bair’s.

We learn to extend our translations of Jung’s concepts, to see them rooted in archaic energies, in archetypal images. We translate these into medical-diagnostic categories which are helpful to identify certain clusters of feelings, images and behaviors and thoughts. As we know, the map is not the territory and the diagnosis is not the diagnosed; neither is a term like “complex” itself the psychological reality. It is the experience, the description of the phenomena themselves, the felt movement in us, the affect which we track: the rapid heart beat, the dry mouth, the numinous image which we track. These are the essential prima materia that gives us clues about the energy that moves us and about the purpose of the complex.

Faculty members teach a variety of theorists. In one course, on Shadow and Persona, papers from the 1986 Berlin IAAP Congress on Shadow, were used along with works on persona from other theorists. Candidates chose an article, reported on it, compared it to their understanding of Jung’s definition at their level of understanding in their studies, and wrote a reflection paper on their clinical work illustrating their understanding of shadow and persona. In a course on “Transference and Counter-Transference” several theorists, both Jungian and non-Jungian were compared and contrasted on this analytic dynamic. What is often the most helpful is for an analyst to share her experience of counter-transference to have it grounded in felt experience.

Thus we must compare and contrast theorists, such as the post- Freudians and the post-Jungians, and include writers in other psychological fields. And we must also include recent scientific discoveries of affect regulation, trauma, addictions relating to analytical psychology and more.

To take this further then, how can we teach, for instance, about complexes, or about transference or counter-transference, if we ourselves are ignorant about our personal images or the sensations in our own bodies? Or if we are ignorant about the emotion we are feeling or if we do not recognize the significance of body and psyche? What is the ever-recurring tendency to finish and petrify the theory, the villa, and to forget the territory around the living tree and the earth and air and spring which feed it?

D. Group Process

In group process one has an opportunity for the interactive struggles with the multiplicity of pressures of peers and the various psychological types of colleagues. One is challenged to reflect on one’s projections and biases that are indicators of the complexes. One learns to question one’s assumptions and have distance to allow an observing self to emerge. One learns to give and receive feedback and one learns about comportment, ethics and community.

In our training this experience is often neglected, not provided for. Some candidates tell us that they either feel isolated or move within cliques, or they initiate or ask for the group process dynamic. In our institute, a sense of community did seem to grow when group process was provided, and it decreased without it.

Several writers have helped us look at the lack of our own sense of community, at our lack of own group process, at our own inability to talk with one another, at our own blind spots as analysts. This is important work for the bigger picture. How do we train people to be in the world if we do not ourselves continue to grow? And how do we as analysts learn to work together in group?

E. The Public Sphere

For many analysts, to remain within the private sphere in their analytic work is their calling and challenge. For others the introverted work needs to be balanced with teaching, group work and concerns about the public sphere, and the larger world. Perhaps this is carried by our particular collective, by IAAP’s Developing Groups. But there are issues of racism, of sexism, of technology, bio-ethics, art and of so many areas that we may often neglect but yet challenge us.

How do we address these larger social issues, such as poverty and religious fundamentalism? Our complexes are not only personal but cultural, and it is essential for us to understand our own cultural, educational perspectives as relative. Yet it is in the relationship with the Other, that this awareness becomes possible. Thus the Other makes possible the reflection needed for our growth, as ours does for the other.

III. The Complex

Jung wrote, “The essential basis of our personality is affectivity. Thought and action are, as it were, only symptoms of affectivity.” (CW 3, §78) “Large complexes are always strongly feeling-toned and, conversely, strong affects always leave behind very large complexes. … on the one hand large complexes include numerous somatic innervations, while on the other hand strong affects constellate a great many associations because of their powerful and persistent stimulation of the body.” (Ibid, §87)

In light of this I wish to briefly differentiate five dynamics of complex in our training.

  1. Complexes are tangles of feelings and thoughts which may manifest in the images in our dreams, as Jung has spoken about. How these images as aspects of parts of ourselves relate to one another, of course, give us clues to our complexes through our associations.
  2. Complexes are revealed in the way we relate to friends, lovers, enemies; in our projections, introjections; in the ways we remove ourselves from attitudes and judgements from feelings we ourselves do not wish to encounter or confront.
  3. Complexes are revealed in parapraxes, slips of the tongue, memory lapses, hallucinations.
  4. Complexes are often embedded in the body (when preverbal or due to trauma), and are revealed by body symptoms, or impulses, addictions, energies that betray us through our bodies. This is in contrast to embodied experiences. Often these sufferings have no organic source.
  5. Complexes are “mixed up,” they “infect” us as Jung aptly put it, in the inter-subjective field of the analytic couple, the teaching couple.

It is these felt experiences that are so numinous for so many people, resulting in over-emphasizing or fleeing the experience. Moreover, these experiences (images, sensations) are often the clues to a breakdown or to a lack of development of the ego’s strength, where the deeper archetypal energy, the core of the complex, has free reign, and imprisons our psyches (psychic and physical trauma, and cumulative trauma).

Therefore, it is critical we become aware of not only the images and thoughts but also the feelings and sensations in our bodies that often “infect” us – all of which facilitate the awareness of the phenomena of the transference and counter-transference. This awareness of the experience makes it possible to participate in the ongoing process of analysis and training.

Jung suggested that complexes are rooted in the psychoid realm, which moves and affects the body, and the complexes are often expressed somatically. As we face and experience complexes, it is as if the complex seeks expression in the symbolic ways that move us into the process of the transcendent function, that we at first do not understand but sorely need to understand to urge us on toward our individuation paths.

IV – Conclusion

The components of analysis, supervision, instruction, and group work, together, all make up the space partly in the villa, partly with the tree in the courtyard. But what is too often left out is our relationship to the public sphere. The common factor is the experience of the complex, the phenomena of it.

Very early on Jung talked about the “linguistic surrogates” for affect and then, for whatever reason, he moved into a more abstract theoretical understanding. Jung and others demonstrated with the Word Association Test the vital relationship of body to psyche.

I believe that we need to develop our tolerance for experiencing the complex, to increasingly learn to observe, validate, and be present to the person, to endure the minutia.

Words, the “linguistic surrogates,” often come later after the experience of the complex. Then comes the understanding, the narrative. This understanding of course must constantly be revised, throughout the interplay of our sensations and emotions and theory which change in the process of our experience of the complex (or archetypal energies), as we uncover who we are.

The “linguistic surrogates,” the words, theories, the villa, are essential to allow us to develop a “common language” and to keep us in the ambit of mutually understandable discourse. But it is the open courtyard that allows us the possibility of holding the reverie and confusion, the richness and novelty of experience with one another and within ourselves.

We must be careful to not take cover in the villa, flee into the words and theories or into the “safety” of relationships too soon, but at times to connect with the image, the affect and emotion, to embrace the living tree with its roots in the prima materia to also see where this leads us.