Can You Individuate on the Top of Mount Everest

Can You Individuate on the Top of Mount Everest?

Individuation has two principle aspects: in the first place it is an internal and subjective process of integration, and in the second it is an equally indispensable process of objective relationship. Neither can exist without the other, although sometimes the one and sometimes the other predominates.[“The Psychology of the Transference,” CW16, par. 448. C.G. Jung]

In the last blog entry, we addressed an overview of ” in the first place”.  In this blog entry, we will review  … “and in the second it is an equally indispensable process of objective relationship.”  You cannot individuate on the top of Mount Everest.  You must have relationships with other “objects”, depth psychological parlance for persons, communities, pets, and other other living beings. (Does a tree count?  If it is a sequoia or a redwood, perhaps so.)  And, given what we know from research and clinical experience, these relationships must be face to face first, with social networking coming second.  Telephone, email and texting, Facebook and Twitter, cannot  replace direct human experience.  Augment, perhaps; replace no.

This applies to psychotherapy and analysis as well.  Imagine being raised by parents who are only available only at a distance by means of some sort of high tech gadget?  In many ways, the depth psychotherapist or analyst fills a parental sort of role.  The way I practice depth psychotherapy and analysis, I always begin the work in my office face to face before even entertaining the idea of working on the telephone or Skype or Google Chat. In my experience, it is the only way to establish a viable therapeutic relationship.  Even then, this is the exception, rather than the rule.  Most of my work is done face to face.  In unusual circumstances — for example, a move or an illness –we will try using the telephone.  It can work if the groundwork has been properly prepared.  And, it helps to have face-to-face meetings whenever possible.

Jung established an Analytical Psychology Club in Zurich early on because he discovered just how important it was for analysands to have a community of like minded people, individuals who were going through a similar process of individuating.  I can appreciate in my own life just how important Jung’s position is.  After completing my training in Zurich, I experienced a sense of isolation practicing in Swarthmore even though I was affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania and connected with a few other Jungian analysts and other like minded psychotherapists in the Philadelphia area.  I moved to the Bay area in large part because of the prospect of affiliating with the well established and thriving Jungian community at the San Francisco Jung Institute.  I make it a point to attend the monthly dinner meetings and connect with my colleagues in a variety of ways.  And, I tend to the other important personal relationships in my life, too.

In analysis, I will encourage my patients or analysands to tend to their personal and professional relationships and organizations.   Inevitably this becomes the focus of my analytical gaze. Sometimes it is the problem that brings the person into my office.  Sometimes we will do couples therapy involving the patient and the partner.  I always do couples therapy face to face.   I am not opposed to the use of high tech means to find a romantic partner, share a computer screen to accomplish a shared work mission, or even find a therapist!

Back to Mount Everest.  Now that I think about it, I do not know of anybody who has reached the top of Mount Everest alone:  Other climbers and sherpas are required for the trek.  When I climbed Mount Fuji on what I thought was my individual spiritual quest, I found other people along the climb, who in the face of super typhoon Man-Yi made the adventure meaningful and whole as well as possible.  Being on top of Mount Fuji was an important experience for me — especially getting my Buddhist walking stick stamped in a Shinto temple — but no substitute for connecting with the human beings I encountered along the way.

Dr. Seth Isaiah Rubin, Ph.D.