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Interviews

From time to time, we reach out to some of our exceptional faculty members and speak to them about topics they will be exploring during our many travel seminars.

Jan Bauer, MA

An Interview by James Kullander

“It’s very important to learn to be conscious of our shadow parts and to be open to integrating them because they contain vital life energies, without which we remain simply collective products of our society.” —Jan Bauer

We celebrate our 20th anniversary this summer. We are planning a stellar program for our Jung on the Hudson series with two weeks (July 14-19 and July 21-26) devoted to the exploration of one of C.G. Jung’s most significant contributions to modern psychology, the process of individuation. One of our popular presenters joining us this summer, Jungian analyst and author Jan Bauer, offered us the following interview about her thinking on the topic of individuation.

James Kullander: For Jung, the individuation process involves integrating our shadow side, that part of us we disown because we fear it, don’t like it, are ashamed of it. Why is that?

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Jan Bauer: I think for Jung the individuation process involved integrating more than the shadow. I think it involved creating a veritable democracy of the psyche. In other words, we need to be open to all the different people and energies we carry within us.

I like Jung’s image of the psyche as a boat in which the captain is the ego who must make all final decisions but only after taking into consideration the reality of the weather—our inner moods and outer circumstances—and the voices of the other sailors, the inner figures.

Of course, there are particular energies, or bad sailors, we consider negative and have trouble integrating, such as the shadow parts. These are shameful because they do not correspond to our ego ideal or to the image we have been taught by culture and family to cultivate in order to be acceptable.

Kullander: How do we begin to go about integrating our shadow side?

Bauer: It’s very important to learn to be conscious of our shadow parts and to be open to integrating them because they contain vital life energies, without which we remain simply collective products of our society.

Our shadow is also our uniqueness. As for how we integrate it, well, that could start by imagining a person we absolutely loathe or absolutely adore. Either way, the traits of that person represent certain aspects of our unlived negative or positive shadow that we have banned and need to allow in.

The alchemical trick, so to speak, is to look upon those loathed or adored traits and see beyond the form they appear to be in the other person to see into the essential core of these traits and imagine how they could transfer to us and add to and expand our consciousness and possibilities.

Kullander: Relationships of all kinds—intimate, familial, professional—are key to the individuation process. How so?

Bauer: Relationships are key to the individuation process because they confront us with the Other, whether it be a partner, lover, child, neighbor, or even pet. They both invite and force us to leave our comfort zone and open up to new ways of being and growing.

Kullander: Speaking of relationships, in your book, Impossible Love, you say that certain intimate relationships are impossible. “They happen at the wrong time, in the wrong place, and with the wrong person,” you write. And yet, you also believe they can actually help us attain emotional balance and wholeness. Can you say a little about this in light of the individuation process?

Bauer: I think the situation of an impossible love where passion prevails yanks us out of our usual conventional self and pushes us into our own farthest extremes of love, of lust, of hate, of fear. You name it. If we can survive the ordeal and not get stuck in having to have the Other, we come out the other side much wiser about our own crazy humanity. We have experienced a loss of innocence that can bring both humility and greater tolerance for self and others.

Kullander: A growing number of people of all ages and around the world are living alone, either by choice or because of divorce or the death of a spouse. How does living alone change the course of one’s journey of individuation?

Bauer: Living alone is a growing phenomenon that has not yet been really acknowledged or validated in our society. Despite the growing numbers, it is still seen more as a problem than simply a new phenomenon. This, unfortunately, creates an underlying shame in many people who live alone. They feel as if they haven’t done it right.

That said, I think facing up to living alone and trying to create a rich and interconnected life is a true individuation challenge. People who live alone are pioneers on a new frontier, having to invent new ways of living, and that in itself constitutes an individuation process. They are leaving the comfort of the socially expected way to live and are actually creating different modes of being in the world.

Kullander: Jung believed that the journey of the Self is an unfinished task throughout our lives. How do we know that there is more to life—and to ourselves—than we think we know on any given day?

Bauer: If we are open to it, life keeps handing us surprises everyday. The unconscious doesn’t take a rest just because we are concerned with our agendas and our routines.

Like the weather, at least here in Canada, our emotions are constantly changing all day long: anger in a traffic jam, joy in meeting a friend, pleasure in petting an animal, impatience in opening an impossibly wrapped package.

Then there are the daily surprises, good and bad: losing keys, finding $20 in our pocket, hearing a loved song that brings back memories of all kinds, finding a suspicious mole on the skin.

All these ordinary things remind us that we’re not really in charge and that the Self or the Life Force or the Trickster, whatever name we choose, is ever-present and connecting us to more than the “just today.”

Jan BauerJan Bauer, MA, earned master’s degrees at the Sorbonne and Boston University. A graduate of the Jung Institute of Zurich, she lives in Quebec; practices as a Jungian analyst (in both French and English); teaches in Jung groups throughout the United States and Canada; and lectures at the University of Montreal. Formerly director of training for the Inter-Regional Society of Jungian Analysts, her publications include Alcoholism and Women and Impossible Love.

James Hollis, PhD

An Interview by James Kullander

“Seeing a relationship sink is like watching an ocean liner sink from afar: good people are out there, and one cannot help but weep for them.” —James Hollis

Our Jung on the Hudson July 2012 seminar series includes a weekend seminar with James Hollis called “Relationships: The Psychodynamics of Self & Other.” Dr. Hollis offered us this interview to discuss his topic.

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James Kullander: In your weekend program, “Relationships: The Psychodynamics of Self & Other,” you are going to speak about the “Magical Other.” What is that?

James Hollis: The “Magical Other” is an autonomous, intra-psychic image in our psyche that embodies all our needs, yearnings, and expectations. It includes our fantasies of “the good parent,” the lover, and the guide of the soul in one. While the realization of such a weighty package is rationally impossible to ask of others, we nonetheless are held captive by its power and unwittingly transfer its agenda to others through projection. Given the gap between our expectations of the “Magical Other” and their finite capacities, we often hopelessly burden the relationship and, predictably, end in disappointment, cynicism, blaming, and then roll it all over again onto the next solitary soul.

Kullander: Aren’t the psychodynamics of projection important in attracting two people together and keeping them together? That is, if there’s no spark provided by a set of mutual projections, what’s to be done?

Hollis: All of life, especially relationships, begins in projection, namely, our effort to go forth to meet our destinies in an unknown and omnipotent world. Without projection, we would not get out of bed in the morning. All relationships begin with projection, or they would not occur, and the course of the relationship will test the agenda of the projection over against the reality of the other. What survives may well be worthy of further investment, or the relationship may collapse altogether.

Kullander: If our relationship maps are drawn in infancy, way before we had much consciousness about anything, can we ever outgrow them? Or are we destined to repeat them time and again?

Hollis: Yes to both premises. We can and do outgrow them, which is one of the reasons we attend these sorts of relationship seminars. But the archaic imagoes of self and other are always present and playing a role, especially when we think we have left them behind. Taking responsibility for such relational maps is a form of loving-kindness to others, and a continuing task for us as its replications resonate downward to the deepest levels of our psyche.

Kullander: Why do we even bother?

Hollis: Because without relationship, we will be caught in our own narcissistic circle, wherein complex speaks to complex, and only repetition is possible. Relationship pulls us out of ourselves and obliges the dialectical engagement with the other, which always enlarges us, sometimes in painful ways.

Kullander: When you hear through friends and family about people getting married or drive by a church and see a wedding going on, what’s the first thing that crosses your mind?

Hollis: I cannot help but wish them the best, thinking that they will all, at some point, either come to these sorts of conversations around self and other dynamics or likely wind up hurting each other more than helping. Hope is what drives our world, and experience is what tempers that hope. Seeing a relationship sink is like watching an ocean liner sink from afar: good people are out there, and one cannot help but weep for them.

Kullander: What advice would you give two people right before they get married without spoiling the party?

Hollis: Attend this seminar, find the courage to ask these questions of yourselves, and realize that the relationship with the partner will never be more evolved than the relationship one has with oneself. And then remember that the other is simply another poor soul trying to make it through this life. And bring to them compassion, grace, and forgiveness as often as you can, and remember that you, too, are in need of these gifts as well.

James HollisJames Hollis, PhD, trained at the C.G. Jung Institute in Zurich, Switzerland, and is currently a Jungian analyst in private practice in Houston, Texas. He has written 13 books, including The Eden Project: In Search of the Magical Other; Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life; and What Matters Most: Living a More Considered Life.

Lionel Corbett, MD

An Interview by James Kullander

“I’m interested in helping people locate the sacred in their lives the way it actually appears to them, and helping them find a way to relate to it, not dictating how it should appear or what it should look like when it does.” — Lionel Corbett

In our 2012 Jung in Ireland program, Lionel Corbett presented material at the pre-seminar program on “Revisioning Later Life: A Jungian Approach” as well as presented and led workshops on “Liminal Space: Fertile Ground for Creativity & Transformation” at the County Wicklow seminar. In the weeks leading up to the Jung in Ireland seminar, Dr. Corbett offered us the following interview.

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James Kullander: In one of your presentations for the Jung in Ireland program’s topic of “Revisioning Later Life,” you will be speaking about spirituality in later life. How is spirituality in later life distinguished from spirituality throughout the rest of our lives?

Lionel Corbett: One difference is that the older person often has to deal with different issues than the younger person. The obvious ones are losses, illnesses, and the need to come to terms with one’s approaching death. Of course these may occur at any age, but are more likely as we age.

Then, one’s God-image matures as we age. We have a different way of thinking about the divine, so that one may no longer be religious in a conventional sense but one has one’s own way of thinking about spiritual matters. We also have to find new sources of meaning and purpose in life as we age and find a way not to become stuck in our development, make peace with the past, forgive it, and let go of it where possible.

I like the idea of “gerotranscendence,” which suggests that the older person experiences a shift in his or her perspective on life from a materialistic and pragmatic approach to a more cosmic and transcendent approach. One becomes less self-centered, less concerned with possessions and physical appearance, more introspective, less interested in meaningless social interaction, and one develops a greater sense of connection to the world at large. One also senses an affinity with past and future generations.

Kullander: In your book, The Religious Function of the Psyche, you say that traditional religions have lost their appeal and even their purpose in the modern era. How did that happen?

Corbett: This process began with the Enlightenment or even with the Renaissance, and has been gathering steam ever since, for several reasons—the list is long.

For one thing, the religions make promises that they cannot keep; they often do not “work” for the individual when he or she is suffering. They only offer platitudes, which do not help.

Given the state of the world and the historical record, we can no longer believe in a benevolent heavenly father; there is too much evil in the world. It is obvious that the teachings of the traditions do not really change the behavior of their adherents; they remain corrupt and violent. The teachings of the tradition, such as “turn the other cheek” and the beatitudes, are too difficult to follow, even for true believers; they only address consciousness and ignore the unconscious sources of behavior.

The mythology of the traditions does not resonate with our mental make-up. For example, we are not all interested in someone else dying vicariously for our sins, and we do not believe that this belief is essential for salvation. We can no longer take seriously the biblical mythology; it seems like fairy tales and ridiculous to take literally. The rise of science has explained more and more what used to be the province of religion, and every time religion and science argued (witness Galileo and Darwin) science has obviously won.

Finally, we can no longer tolerate the sexism of the hierarchy or organized religion’s dogmatism.

Kullander: That book was published in 1996. Now the U.N. states that Islam is the fastest growing and second largest religion in the world after Christianity, much of it happening here in the United States. We’re also seeing an increase in Christian fundamentalism in this country. Which is to say that traditional religions, at least Islam and Christian fundamentalism, have not lost their appeal. How do you account for this?

Corbett: When you sense that you are falling off a cliff, you cling more tightly. Fundamentalism is the last gasp of the traditions’ attempt to hold on. Fundamentalism is helpful to a certain type of person who needs certainty and fixed beliefs because he or she does not have enough internal sources of guidance and control. External structure, provided by the book and the hierarchy is reassuring in a frightening world.

Kullander: Another one your books is called The Sacred Cauldron: Psychotherapy as a Spiritual Practice. How is psychotherapy a spiritual practice? It’s detractors might call it navel gazing.

Corbett: Any spiritual practice can be dismissed as navel gazing. That’s a big subject, which opens up the question of whether there really is a spiritual dimension to reality. Too big to argue here!

Psychotherapy means service to the soul and we should take this seriously. Psychotherapy deals with questions of meaning and purpose, with suffering, and other spiritually important material. Furthermore, the psyche is structured by spiritual principles, the archetypes, which are what Jung called “organs of God.”

At the core of the psyche is the transpersonal Self, which is an image of the divine; the ego is in relation to the Self, which takes an interest in the therapy by providing dreams and by influencing the therapeutic field between the two participants. Psychotherapy requires compassion, attention, love, and forgiveness, which are all spiritually important qualities.

Kullander: You will also be speaking during the program’s seminar called “Liminal Space: Fertile Ground for Creativity and Transformation.” You will be speaking about liminality as a crisis and opportunity. Can you say a little about what liminality means to you?

Corbett: Liminality is the betwixt and between state, when one has been thrust out of one’s ordinary life into what will eventually become a new status and a new type of consciousness, but during the liminal period one is not out of the old state and not into the new state. This intermediate or liminal period is often frightening and disorienting. Liminality offers the possibility of becoming a new person, or it may lead to disintegration and collapse.

Kullander: One of your topics is on navigating liminality. In terms of working with Jung’s concept of the Self, when we find ourselves in this liminal space, isn’t it better sometimes just to stay lost rather than try to navigate one’s way out? Jung himself experienced this sense of being lost, from which emerged his now famous Red Book.

Corbett: We navigate by following the thread provided by the Self, not by following the ego. For a long time the ego feels as if it is lost, and the ego is truly lost, but the Self is not. So lost is only an ego term. Trying anything is a waste of time; trying is an ego function and I do not recommend it at all. The ego’s job is only to follow the breadcrumbs provided by the Self, which acts as the lodestar. Nothing happens without a purpose or a direction, whether the ego likes it or not.

Kullander: Your work strikes me as being very religious in nature. Had you ever considered the life of a religious leader?

Corbett: No. I cannot abide organized religion. For me, being told what to believe is the antithesis of true spirituality. I don’t like what William James called second-hand religion—reading a book about what happened to someone else a long time ago.

I’m interested in helping people locate the sacred in their lives the way it actually appears to them, and helping them find a way to relate to it, not dictating how it should appear or what it should look like when it does.

Lionel CorbettLionel Corbett, MD, trained in psychiatry in England and as a Jungian analyst at the Jung Institute of Chicago. He is a core faculty member of Pacifica Graduate Institute in Santa Barbara, California, and the author of Psyche and the Sacred: Spirituality Beyond Religion; The Religious Function of the Psyche; and The Sacred Cauldron: Psychotherapy as a Spiritual Practice.