Medium 9781855753884

Understanding the Self-Ego Relationship in Clinical Practice

Views: 1120
Ratings: (0)

Understanding the Self-Ego Relationship in Clinical Practice: Towards Individuation is a volume in the clinical practice monograph series from The Society of Analytical Psychology. This series is intended primarily for trainees on psychotherapy and psychodynamic counselling courses, and for those who are newly qualified. These compact editions will be invaluable to all who wish to learn the basics of major theories derived from the work of Freud and Jung, from an integrated viewpoint. The authors are Jungian analysts trained at the SAP, highly experienced in both theory and practice.Margaret Clark argues for the profound importance of trusting the unconscious psyche in therapeutic work with adults. She considers various analytical meanings of the term "the self", with reference to a wide range of theorists, and various ways of thinking about the development of the ego. She uses primarily a Jungian model of the psyche from a developmental perspective, based on the assumption that the ego evolves in infancy and childhood out of a primary psychosomatic self. The self remains always greater than the ego and has infinite resources on which the ego can draw. The ongoing process of including more of this self in consciousness is what Jung calls "individuation".

List price: $19.99

Your Price: $15.99

You Save: 20%

Remix
Remove
 

8 Chapters

Format Buy Remix

CHAPTER ONE. The Unconscious Psyche

ePub

‘I may allow myself only one criterion for
the result of my labours: Does it work?’

(Jung, 1929a, p. 43)

Theoreticians of different schools are usually trying to describe the same observed phenomena, but our theoretical stance subtly affects what we observe, as well as how we explain it, often without our being aware of it. This unconscious theoretical bias can even affect what we consider pathological, as well as affecting clinical decisions about management or technique.

Not all psychological theorists even agree that there is an unconscious psyche at all. Jung wrote: ‘I regard the psyche as real (Jung, 1952a, p. 464; original italics), and all depth psychologists, all who practise psychoanalytic or psycho-dynamic psychotherapy, would agree. But even for these clinicians and theorists, it can be hard to give full-blooded credence to the idea that our patients’ fantastical stories are as ‘real’ as external reality. They are equally real (in making psychic impact) because any reality we can know is processed in the same way: our brain receives sensations from the external world or stimuli from our internal world of fantasy, images and dreams; and then our brain interprets the resultant patterns and gives them meaning. We may think it is our mind/psyche which gives them meaning, rather than our brain. Our body is the interface between internal and external reality; both worlds are equally objective to what we call our ego, and our apprehension of both is mediated by the same instrument. The implications of this point of view can still surprise and shock us: for instance, that to consider our dreams in the morning, or to say our prayers, may be as important and meaningful as greeting our family. And clinically it can prepare the therapist to consider that there may be a connection between a patient’s speaking of the weight of her shopping bags just before relating a dream of killing her husband: the fact that she is speaking consecutively of both these ‘objective’ experiences suggests that she as a subject has made a connection (which can then be explored together) between her external and internal reality.

 

CHAPTER TWO. Ego and Self: Defining and Differentiating

ePub

‘The individual investigator must at least try to give his concepts some fixity and precision’

(Jung, 1921, p. 409)

This chapter presents some of the complications around the various uses of the terms ‘ego’ and ‘self, and addresses the question: why does it matter?

The ego

There is a widespread consensus of opinion among theoreticians of varying schools to hypothesize a psychic ‘organ’, like a physical organ, and to call it ‘the ego’. The definition in A Critical Dictionary of Jungian Analysis (Samuels, Shorter, & Plaut, 1986) would sit equally comfortably in Rycroft’s A Critical Dictionary of Psychoanalysis (1968), or in Hinshelwood’s A Dictionary of Kleinian Thought (1989). It would suit Fairbairn and Winnicott, as well as most contemporary theorists. It reads: ‘the ego is concerned with such matters as personal identity, maintenance of the personality, continuity over time, mediation between conscious and unconscious realms, cognition and reality testing’ (Samuels, Shorter, & Plaut, 1986, p. 50). It is only the next part of this sentence that distinguishes a Jungian view from that of all other theorists; it reads: ‘it [the ego] also has to be seen as responsive to the demands of something superior. This is the self, the ordering principle of the entire personality.’ This part of the definition is to do with the place of the ego in the hierarchy of the psyche. For Jung in 1907, when he was 32 (Jung, 1907, p. 40), and for all other theorists, the ego is the king of the castle. Jung, however, came to consider the ego as an usurper, and the self as the rightful king.

 

CHAPTER THREE. Sub-Personalities and Internal Objects

ePub

‘The united personality will never quite lose
the painful sense of innate discord’

(Jung, 1946, p. 200)

The drama of our psychic life, as Jungian theory understands it, consists in the developing relationship between our self and our ego – urgent or stagnant, stormy or harmonious, now self, now ego leading the way. Communication between the self and the ego can consist of a reasonably civilized dialogue, a squabble, a full-blown row, an invasion, or a tyrannical oppression. One party may try to ignore the other entirely. Later chapters will consider these various manifestations.

Within the self there is also a cast of characters who, like swimmers with their heads above water, are partly in consciousness and partly not. These are the internal objects of the object-relations school, the complexes or sub-personalities in Jungian theory. They are like a family or community living together, or like the characters in a play: total agreement is impossible, because different people want different things. There is ‘innate discord’. This experience is symbolized in the pantheon of gods on Mount Olympus, the many inter-related gods of Hindu theology, and the varied saints in the Christian tradition.

 

CHAPTER FOUR. The Self–Ego Relationship in Infancy and Childhood

ePub

‘Just as a man still is what he always was,
so he already is what he will become’

(Jung, 1940–1941, p. 258)

The self as innate potential

When a baby is born, her body is already programmed by its collective genetic inheritance to have a human skeletal and organic structure. It is also programmed by personal genetic inheritance, so that, if circumstances are favourable, she will develop the family’s bigger or smaller bones, the taller or shorter stature, that she is designed for. Deprivation, accident, illness, or warfare can affect this programme; but it is already set.

At birth, her psyche is similarly already programmed by its collective and familial inheritance. The detailed psychic development of any individual will depend on particular environmental experiences interacting with personal psychological characteristics. We do not yet know exactly how one relates to the other. One possibility is that mind/ psyche is a manifestation solely of brain. This theory would explain how the psyches of identical twins are not identical. We can think that each brain developed differently in infancy, because of the inevitable environmental differences even when the twins are brought up together. The differences between their adult psyches are then physical (in the brain) but not genetic; they are due to nurture, not nature.

 

CHAPTER FIVE. Ego Development in Therapy with Adults

ePub

‘The biblical fall of man presents the dawn of consciousness
as a curse. And as a matter of fact it is in this light
that we first look upon every problem that
forces us to greater consciousness’

(Jung, 1930, p. 388)

In this chapter, we see how for some adults the unfolding of the self through de-integration, and the gradual enlargement and strengthening of the ego through the process of re-integrating whatever the experience was found to be, has not progressed well enough in childhood. Through clinical examples, we consider different degrees of damage and different types of defence, and how these can be worked with in therapy.

Assessment of ego-strength

We need to try to assess before beginning therapy that the patient’s ego is strong enough to sustain what they may experience as assaults upon it – or to know that the therapy will be, at least at first, to strengthen the ego. But since that very strengthening depends on the ego integrating previously unconscious aspects of the psyche, this is a very difficult assessment to make. In therapy, it is always ‘as if one were digging an artesian well and ran the risk of stumbling on a volcano’ (Jung, 1917, p. 114).

 

CHAPTER SIX. The Self-Ego Relationship in the Therapist

ePub

‘The doctor is as much “in the analysis” as the patient’

(Jung, 1929b, p. 72)

Figure 1 is an adaptation of a diagram Jung devised to illustrate the phenomenon of the transference (Jung, 1946, p. 221).

To consider first the intrapsychic dynamics illustrated here: Fordham added the line (D) to show that the patient blocks, through defence mechanisms, unconscious material from becoming conscious (Fordham, 1978, p. 87). The therapist is shown as having no such block. This is an idealistic portrayal of the totally conscious therapist – obviously an impossibility. Their own therapy, however, is intended to make the therapist less defensive than the patient against messages from their own unconscious psyche.

Figure 1. The phenomenon of the transference. Source: Fordham, 1978, p. 87

The diagram also shows the complex interpsychic communications between therapist and patient: from ego to ego, from ego to unconscious, from unconscious to ego, and from unconscious to unconscious, in both directions.

Countertransference: sorting out whose feeling is whose

 

CHAPTER SEVEN. Individuation: Dialogue with One’s Self

ePub

‘One should cultivate the art of conversation with oneself

(Jung, 1928a, p. 202)

The Copernican revolution

In the sixteenth century, when the astronomer Copernicus calculated that the earth was not the centre round which all the planets orbited, people had to rethink their view of themselves, God, and the meaning and importance of their lives. The whole of creation was not there to serve its crowning glory, humankind.

Freud referred to this event, along with the discoveries of Darwin, to illustrate how people experience as a major blow to their self-love the realization of the power and effects of the unconscious (Freud, 1916–1917, pp. 284f). Jung also used this event as an image for the psychic revolution that occurs when the ego realizes that it is not the centre of the psyche. Jung acknowledged the shock to the ego, but typically found purpose and hope in this psychic shift – because he emphasized that there is a new centre, the self, around which the ego revolves as the earth revolves round the sun (Jung, 1929a, p. 49). As Jung said: ‘The hammer cannot discover within itself the power which makes it strike. It is something outside, something autonomous, which seizes and moves him’ (Jung, 1940–1941, p. 250). This revolution results in a major shift in the personality, not lightly accommodated. Although this submission can become psychotic, entailing the loss of the ego, in health it is a conscious putting of the ego in a subordinate position. Some patients, even from the beginning of their therapy, know they are in the grip of a power beyond their ego-control, the ‘self, and they are willing to submit to this power to rethink the meaning and purpose of their lives. Jung’s focus on submission to the ‘self is parallel to the notion of submission to God. For example, ‘Muslim’ means one who has willed total surrender to God. The religious believer speaks of God’s grace, of God seeking for the lost soul; the psychologist sees these beliefs as symbols for the start of a stage in the process of individuation.

 

CHAPTER EIGHT. Individuation: Relating to Other People

ePub

‘We meet ourselves time and again in a
thousand disguises on the path of life’

(Jung, 1946, p. 318)

Self-knowledge and relationships

Jung has often been accused that his ‘myth’ of individuation is too introspective, insufficiently related to other people or to the needs of society. It is certainly true that his emphasis is more on our inner development. But, as we have seen repeatedly in the clinical illustrations throughout this book, a change in someone’s internal world leads inevitably to changes in their external circumstances. In Jung’s words:

relationship to the self is at once relationship to our fellow man, and no one can be related to the latter until he is related to himself … Individuation has two principal 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. (Jung, 1946, p. 234)

He is saying that as we withdraw the psychic contents we have projected onto our neighbour, we simultaneously both acknowledge these feelings as our own and also thereby see our neighbour more accurately as himself.

 

Details

Print Book
E-Books
Chapters

Format name
ePub
Encrypted
No
Sku
B000000020526
Isbn
9781780495156
File size
414 KB
Printing
Allowed
Copying
Allowed
Read aloud
Allowed
Format name
ePub
Encrypted
No
Printing
Allowed
Copying
Allowed
Read aloud
Allowed
Sku
In metadata
Isbn
In metadata
File size
In metadata