I am proposing the possibility that perhaps psychology has lost its way. But so has just about everything else. We are all somewhat a slave to someone’s bottom-line. As one trained as a composer in the 70s, I tend to get much of my inspiration from artists. Let me quote one of America’s Greatest Poets as a place to start, and then I’ll make my case. A short excerpt from T.S. Eliot’s “The Little Gidding”
We shall not cease from exploration
and the end of all exploring
will be to arrive where we started
and know the place for the first time.
I have had this feeling recently about many things in my life. I have come to accept many things deeply, things that I only superficially understood thirty or even forty years ago. I have explored and traveled far from where I began, and then returned to the same place, but now it feels like I really do know it, and if I do not know it, I can at least accept it.
As a psychologist, I was introduced to the world of psychology from the writings of C. G. Jung and some Jungian writers who I continue to read, respect, and love. This introduction began in my early twenties, as I studied music, which I was passionate about. During this time, I became increasingly interested in religion and psychology. I began to record and work with my dreams trying to understand Jungian psychology and myself. I continue this practice today. From this inner exploration, I had many mystical and synchronistic experiences.
How does one describe these experiences? They are the moments in my life that I can never forget. They make me feel connected to something greater than myself, to something that seems to be looking out for me, to keep me on track. Imagine my surprise at mid-life when I had the opportunity to return to school to become a psychologist and was told there was not one class on dreams. There was little or no discussion of the unconscious mind. There were exceptions of course, but mostly it was learning to collect symptoms, diagnose, write a treatment plan, and administer treatment. The mystery and wonder were difficult to find in graduate school. I just kept these things I held so true and valuable, like dreams, synchronistic events, and active imagination sessions that have transformed me during the first half of my life, all to myself.
When Jung or dreams were mentioned most professors had not much to say. They’d say something like, “Just score this MMPI by Friday, so we can discuss the results.” It’s as if I spoke a terrible profanity. I think psychology has made incredible scientific strides. I respect and appreciate the empirical approach. I use EMDR every day in my work, which is a highly scientific, and greatly researched approach. I am forever grateful for the brilliant and careful way Francine Shapiro has stewarded her discovery out into the world.
I have noticed that EMDR sometimes brings people to, what Jung would call, an encounter with their collective unconscious. As you will see as I continue through these next pages, that everything Jung describes as the process of psychological transformation occurs during comprehensive EMDR work.
Once all the original symptoms are resolved, chaos and confusion sets in giving rise to an entirely new set of problems and struggles. This occurs because as EMDR heals the client, it also begins to dismantle their negative core belief. Not only does it dismantle this old view, but it shifts this negative belief that drives their every decision to the positive, adaptive, and authentic core belief. Clients rarely know how to live their lives with such a sudden dismantling of their old world view. It doesn’t matter that it was an incorrect view that created havoc in his or her life; it was their view, and it’s all they knew or understood for their entire life. I cannot go into the details of this struggle here, but it is all laid out in my book.
It is during this in-between stage of chaos and confusion that Jungian psychology and techniques become essential. Jung knew all about this, and I imagine this is not news to Jungian analysts; however, more mainstream psychology programs have no interest in this. It’s to “New Age-ie” or something. The first client that this happened to, confused me. I thought we were finished. Everything that we had set up as treatment goals had been accomplished. Success, right? Wrong. The client was experiencing a rather severe loss of identity, filled with a sense of confusion, depression, and internal chaos.
Hmm, no one told me about this one. Really? After all the EMDR sessions and all the initial symptoms are gone there’s more to do?
Jung said, “chaos is the fundamental ingredient of psychological transformation” (Collected Works Vol. 14 Paragraph 252). Well was I glad to read that line. As the client moves out of this period of chaos and confusion, which can only be done through contemplative activities by the client, the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel begins to emerge. This cannot happen without a total surrender to the process. This work must be done without intention. The only intention is to surrender to the discovery of what one finds there and accepts it as their truth and their reality.
Jung again tells us, “Do you still not know that the way to truth stands open only to those without intention?” (Red Book, p. 236b) I realized this long before I read this passage in the Red Book.
EMDR is extremely compatible with the Jungian model at this stage. You cannot successfully do EMDR without a complete surrender to the process. If you try to control it, if you enter it with intention, you will fail. Jung warns of this with active imagination as well. He warns that one should not use images of people who are real, even if they happened to be in your dream. Using a known person may be a self-serving approach and most likely ego driven, therefore, dangerous. No, these inner encounters with the collective unconscious that are facilitated and accelerated by EMDR, must be done without intention. EMDR is this stage of the work is like Jungian Analytic Psychology on steroids. Shadow material becomes available quickly.
You see this is what it means to lose your life to save it. This is what it means to be born again. Step one, the crucifixion of the old self. Step two a period of chaos and confusion, and step three a chance at the rebirth, the resurrection, the banquet. There is no other way. Those who spout, “I have accepted Jesus Christ as my own personal savior” if they really mean that, then they should hold on to their hats because that road lead through a period of chaos and confusion.
Morton T. Kelsey said in his book titled Resurrection that, “People who claim to have had an experience of Christ, which only made them feel wonderful, full of goose bumps and happy, may be imagining a Christ of their own making. Christ forces us to deal honestly with ourselves and thus makes it possible for us to deal honestly with others” (Resurrection, page 192). EMDR requires honesty. You may not want to look at some of the things, but you will see them and their effects on your life in the processing. You will acknowledge them, accept them, feel them, and be free of them.
It is a sad thing really, Jung once said that the discovery of the unconscious mind is as significant a discovery for psychology, as radioactivity is to physics. Physics continues to investigate and utilize radiation, but the unconscious mind has been dismissed as nothing one has to worry much about. What you can’t see can’t hurt you right? Of course, there’s money to be made with radiation not so much with stuff like the human soul, the mysterious nature of the psyche, so let’s distill it down to its simplest form. Better yet, let’s just act as if it doesn’t exist.
I have seen far too many mystical things happen to my clients during EMDR sessions as well as the processing sessions in between. I have experienced them myself. I am convinced that their reality is as real if not more real than anything one can quantify and measure. So perhaps psychology should do what I did, what T. S. Eliot said we all should do, and that is after all the exploring, we should return to where it all began, (the unconscious mind), and maybe there will be a sense of really knowing and understanding it for the first time. I’ll close with another artist, a poet, William Carlos Williams who wrote:
It is difficult to get news from poems
yet people die miserably everyday
from the lack of what is found there.
I hope we will learn to bring the poetry back into many vocations not only psychology. Perhaps we can push back against the worshiping of the bottom line.