Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Jungian Perspective on the Dissociability of the Self

This interesting article comes The CG Jung Page - a paper presented in a public lecture at the C.G. Jung Education Center in Pittsburg, PA, by Brian Skea. In this article, he discusses trauma, transference and transformation in relationship to the dissociated complex that can cause neurotic conflict or more serious disorders, such as Borderline Personality Disorder, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder or even psychosis.

Here is the beginning of the article.

Trauma, Transference and Transformation: A Study of Jung's Treatment of His Cousin, Helene

A Jungian Perspective on the Dissociability of the Self and on the Psychotherapy of the Dissociative Disorders

A paper presented in a public lecture at the C.G. Jung Education Center in Pittsburgh, PA, on February 3, 1995.

Along with Freud and Janet, Jung was one of the pioneers of the psychoanalytic movement. In the early years, at the start of the twentieth century, trauma, especially childhood sexual abuse, was implicated in the development of hysteria and conversion disorders in adults. Jung's early contribution was his complex theory, in which he showed how trauma promotes the formation of autonomous complexes in the psyche. In binding traumatic memories, images and affects, the dissociated complex protects the ego from being overwhelmed. However, the complex can be subsequently triggered and can compete with the ego for dominance of the conscious personality, causing neurotic conflict, or more serious disorders, such as Borderline Personality Disorder, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, the dissociative disorders, or even psychosis.

Jung's contribution to the fields of dissociation and post- traumatic stress has however been ignored in historical reviews by experts such as Putnam and Kluft (1993), or Herman (1992). Likewise Jungian psychologists have not published on trauma, abuse and the dissociative disorders. Exceptions are Emmett Early, his book, The Raven's ReturnThe Influence of Psychological Trauma on Individuals and Culture (1993) and Richard Noll, his 1989 article in the JAP, "Multiple Personality, Dissociation, and C.G. Jung's Complex Theory," though he has since strangely rejected his earlier paper (1993).

In actual fact, Jung, early in his work, minimised the impact of exogenous trauma on complex formation, emphasising more the endogenous trauma caused by conflictual fantasy. He also focussed on the capacity of the psyche to split into different personalities or systems of consciousness as an aspect of normal, that is, supposedly non-trauma-related complex formation. He postulated that these complexes originated in the archetypal depths of the psyche, deep structures, patterns and ways of living that represent an inherited memory of the history of human culture. Jung proposed that this dissociative capacity of the normal psyche promotes the expansion of the personality through greater differentiation of function. He said that dissociation "allows certain parts of the psychic structure to be singled out so that, by concentration of the will, they can be trained and brought to their maximum development....This produces an unbalanced state similar to that caused by a dominant complex -a change of personality" (Jung (1960), p122).

Erich Neuman developed this further in The Great Mother(1955): "Thus to the differentiation of consciousness corresponds a more differentiated manifestation of the unconscious, its archetypes and symbols." The fragmentation of primordial undifferentiated archetypes, for example, the Great Mother, leads to the emergence of individual archetypes, such as the witch, the whore, the young goddess, the wise woman etc. This parallels the discriminatory powers of ego consciousness to embrace such diverse archetypal images, in this case, of the Feminine, without being possessed and overwhelmed by them.

Cultural change is hinted at here, brought about by creative, heroic individuals who dare to bring socially useful archetypal ideas or innovations into consciousness. This benign Jungian view can be wedded to a pathological view of dissociation, say arising from trauma, via acknowledging that early trauma can stimulate the creation of adult heroes, prophets, artists, and healers, for example, Moses, Frida Kahlo, Mozart, or Jung himself, exceptional individual cases who were able to creatively transform their traumatic experiences. Not many of us reach this level, but Jung believed that his form of therapy could restore pathological forms of dissociation to health via some of the methods that creative individuals have discovered spontaneously. These always involve some form of conscious expression of the emergence of healing images and symbols from the unconscious, via dreams, art work, dance, active imagination, sandtray, etc. This relates to Jung's concept of the individuation process, which implies the development of wholeness of the personality. In actual fact, most creative individuals are not well-rounded, but are one-sided and "unbalanced" in the direction of their area of genius. The area where they seem so often immature, if not pathological is in the area of relationships. This was true of Jung, artists such as Frida Kahlo (1983), and traumatised dissociative clients that I have worked with, however talented and creative.

Because of his view of dissociation as a normal aspect of the psyche, Jung never took the trauma theory or the seduction theory of causation of neurosis as seriously as did Freud. This can be seen from his early papers on his work with early patients at the Burgholzi, notably Sabina Spielrein, his research on complexes via the word association test, and his doctoral dissertation, which we will be looking at in this paper.

I will explore Jung's description of multiple personality or multiple complex formation, firstly, in his young cousin, Helene, found in his first published work, his doctoral dissertation, On the Psychology and Pathology of So-Called Occult Phenomena (1902) and, secondly, in himself, found in his last published work, his autobiography, Memories, Dreams, Reflections (1961). I will explore the role of trauma in both of their lives, which seems to me to have played a larger part in the development of their conflicted fantasy life and to obvious dissociative symptoms in childhood and adolescence, than Jung has acknowledged. Jung appeared to have healed his own inner splits by innovative self- healing methods, involving written inner dialogues, fantasy journeys, playing with water, sand and rock that he made into a miniature town, and painting his dreams. He also described the apparent resolution of his cousin's dissociated state following her participation in a series of seances that Jung attended. That Helene was Jung's first patient has been suggested by William Goodheart (1984), who has also investigated the transference- countertransference aspects of the case, raising troubling questions which we will explore further. As with many dissociative individuals, intimate relationships were clearly problematic for both Jung and his young cousin, before, during and after their relationship. The transference- countertransference field of a therapeutic relationship is a place where dissociative and traumatic interpersonal scenarios from past relationships can be reenacted and possibly resolved as long as the therapist is conscious of projective identification phenomena constellated between himself and his client (see Davies & Frawley, 1994). This was clearly not so for the young Jung, and likewise even in some of his later therapy relationships, despite his theoretical consciousness of these phenomena in his writings, eg The Psychology of the Transference (1954). In fact both Goodheart and psychohistorian, John Kerr, in his book, A Most Dangerous Method, (1993) suggest that Helene's relationship with Jung was ultimately traumatising to her rather than therapeutic.

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