Last month I found myself in Jungian analysis by mistake.
(I know this doesn’t sound probable, but trust me, it can be done.)
I guess if you subscribe to the synchronistic (and Jungian) theory that there are no accidents, which I pretty much do when I remember to, then it wasn’t a mistake, but it certainly wasn’t intentional.
But ever one to go with the flow, this perhaps being an extreme case, I am now committed.
I always loved the idea of doing Jungian therapy (because for one thing, as a woman, why would I ever trust anything Freud had to say?), but somewhere along the way I forgot.
So I was intrigued to find myself in this situation. It did seem destined. Also, the first thing my therapist did was buy and read my books, which you have to admire in a therapist.
I’ve had two bouts with therapy before. I think a lot of people go into therapy looking to be fixed, and when a certain period of time goes by and you notice that you’re still not fixed, you look to do it again.
On the other hand, I think a lot of writers, maybe other artists too, are wary of therapy and analysis because, hey, if you take away our demons, what’s left?
But a Jungian-based approach is very artist/writer friendly because you’re dealing with
B) Fairy Tales
C) All those people in your head.
All of which are writers’ stock in trade.
The dream landscape has been very interesting – it’s amusing how reading Jungian books makes you dream in Jungian symbols almost instantly. I’ve never dreamed of a castle in my life that I can remember, but the other night after reading Robert A. Johnson’s Fisher King/Handless Maiden, there I was that night in a full-on medieval castle, interacting with a studious adolescent boy who was, I am gathering, one aspect of my animus, my inner male. (He was not happy with me. At all.)
And then the next night, another animus figure and I and this little wild girl child were excavating a statue of a goddess, or the goddess, but it felt like Aphrodite, which had become damaged, I believe cracked in the head, in the process of excavation and we had to stop.
Not my usual dreams at all, but the theory is that the unconscious really WANTS us to get the message and will obligingly adopt whatever symbolic language will make us get it the fastest. At any rate, my dreams, which are usually interesting, have become suddenly very pointedly clear about my life situation.
One big element of Jungian therapy is this idea of the anima and animus, that we all have masculine and feminine sides, or aspects, really. (I will not even attempt to explain this myself, yet – here’s a great article. )
And what we do when we’re unconscious (not meaning asleep, but the general waking unconsciousness of most human beings on the planet) is project our own anima (for men) or animus (for women) onto the men and women we fall in love with. And a true relationship is only possible when both partners are able to withdraw the projection and see their partner for the real person they are.
So (if I’ve got this right) theoretically, you do that by becoming aware of your anima/animus to begin with, which you can do by studying who and what shows up in your dreams.
In most of my dreams for the last week I have been interacting with a male figure, all different ages, or there is simply one by my side while I go about whatever else I am doing: my brother, that brainy adolescent boy from the castle, an alarming number of exes, a completely insane homeless person, Alfred Hitchcock (I loved that one), and Joe Konrath. (Yes, I know, scary, but the truth shall set you free.)
All aspects of my animus.
One of my particular life problems is about balancing my male and female sides, which have been unbalanced for a long time, so this first step, becoming aware of what’s actually in there, is being fascinating. It’s a marvelous thing that everything we need to know about ourselves is actually right there, playing itself out in our dreams every night. It’s actually kind of addictive, to look at your life more as a novel, with its own structure and design, and to not be the writer for once, but the audience.
And of course, it’s all research – SO many new characters to keep in that character warehouse for when next I need them.
There’s another thing that’s being fascinating, in fictional terms as well as therapeutic, and that’s how my dreams will keep presenting the same symbols and variations on the same setting or situation – there are obvious themes, and a progression to the dreams, as if when I figure out what one is saying, the next dream will take it to the next level and there will be a new puzzle to work out to get to the next step.
I find myself impatient to get through the day and get to sleep so I can see what happens next.
ALL of the above so obviously applicable to writing: thematic image systems, a series of progressive puzzles, recurring characters, male and female sides in opposition, and the drive to find out WHAT HAPPENS NEXT.
Now, I admit, I can’t see that the writing I’m doing during the day has taken any quantum leap because of my more conscious nightly adventures – yet – but on the other hand, I never know what I’m writing or how good it is until I’m finished. And I can’t help but think that it’s going to help.
Anyway, I’ll keep you posted.
So how about you out there? Any Jungians? Has therapy helped your writing or your life? Any interesting dreams, lately?
Happy Solstice, Christmas, Hannuka, Kwanzaa, and everything else that everyone celebrates!
I will be teaching an online Screenwriting Tricks for Authors workshop through the Yellow Rose Romance Writers, Jan. 1 through Jan. 18.
These online workshops are a fantastic deal, just $25 for two weeks, and here’s where you can get one-on-one feedback on the craft techniques I blog about here as they apply to your own story. All genres welcome!
More info on Screenwriting Tricks For Authors.