Saturday, May 06, 2006

Interview with Pru Conradi: Jungian Therapist

Interview with Therapist, Prue Conradi on other power in therapy

What do you understand by the term other power in therapy; what does it mean to you?

I became interested in analysis and what you might call other power in therapy as a result of my own process. Fifteen years ago I was deeply involved in and exploring humanistic values, having been initially trained in the person-centred approach. I had been influenced by the term ‘self-actualisation’, but inwardly ended up hitting a brick wall. There wasn’t anywhere else to go!What I found so fascinating about a Jungian approach is that it is pedagogical and deeply educational in the broadest sense. Dream work, which is central to a Jungian approach, forms the centre of my work. Working with dreams relativises the ego as dreams originate from another dimension of consciousness.

What do you mean, relativises the ego?

Well, seeing the ego as an object by a subject from this other dimension in a much bigger context. This can be an astonishing thought.

As something in a bigger picture?

Yes, but not just in relation to itself, but in relation to the notion of the self as other than ego. It is important in doing dream work not to appropriate the dream for oneself or you just get fat on it! Rather, I would concentrate on developing an appropriate attitude and deep respect towards the dream, asking what does this dream require of you? What new consciousness does it call for?

How do you avoid falling into the trap of appropriating the dream for oneself?

Well, by inviting the dreamer to ‘walk around it’, to see it from different perspectives, to amplify all the images and thus allow the meaning to present itself, to offer itself up, rather than imposing an interpretation upon it. It is then not necessary to ‘interpret’ the dream as such which can be an ego-ic imposition upon it. Instead one simply allows the interpretation, the meaning to present itself.

You talk about dreams in very visual terms. I’ve read that not everyone processes information visually. Have you found this to be a problem? I mean, what about people that say they don’t have dreams?

I have had people say they don’t dream who then find that very night, or the night before the next session they end up having a dream which they bring to the next session. It is as though, if we turn our ear towards the unconscious then dreams will often come.And if this material is properly honoured and valued it then starts to speak.

You have used the term ‘ego’. At the beginning before we got going, I mentioned self and other power. Do you see the terms ‘self’ and ‘ego’ to be synonymous?

No! There is I feel a phenomenological problem with how differently the self is understood and defined in different psychological theories. But to my mind they are in no way synonymous with one another. They are quite different. In Jungian depth psychology the ego is one complex of the psyche with very important ordering and differentiating functions. Psychosis occurs when the ego is too weak and becomes overwhelmed with unconscious material. The ego is crucial as the centre of consciousness and the seat of the individual’s experience of subjective identity.The self on the other hand is the central regulating archetype expressing the totality of the psyche. The self is experienced as the objective, transpersonal centre of identity that transcends the ego. It is experienced as the image of wholeness where everything comes together. Empirically it cannot be distinguished from the image of God. Experiences of the self possess a numinosity characteristic of religious revelations, and is often encountered in dreams, myths, fairy tales,The self is not only the centre, but also the whole circumference which embraces both conscious and unconscious; it is the centre of this totality, just as the ego is the centre of consciousness.The central question then is, whether or not the ego is in the service of the self .

I’m a bit vague on this…

Let me tell you a story instead. Someone asks, ‘Who discovered water?’ and was answered, ‘I don’t know, but I can tell you who did not: the fish’. The fish does not understand that it can be an object perceived by a subject in a greater picture; it is unconscious of this fact. Levi Strauss talked about this state of unconsciousness when he talked about participation mystique. In this state everything in the outside world is imbued with meaning because we have identified ourselves with it.Dream work involves moving beyond this state of unconsciousness by bringing material to the surface to consciousness, and retrieving what was lost or what is unknown in the unconscious, by creating a real dialogue between the conscious and the unconscious.

How would you explain the difference between identifying with unconscious material and appropriating it in dream work?

Again, the question here is:- Is consciousness in the service of the ego or in the service of the self? If consciousness is serving only the ego then material is being appropriated and distorted in the ego’s interests. We are talking here about an energetic pattern within which one may be operating without being aware of its source.

You just talked about a client who was terrorised by a character in a dream – how do you help a person dealing with such frightening material to remain separate from this material and not become overwhelmed?

One way would be by working with active imagination:- asking the client to dialogue with a character in the dream, to discover what the character wants to happen, how this character sees things, to speak to the characters. Many of us love to construct stories, and we would prefer to see ourselves as the constructor. Our will to construct can be a form of defence and prevents the dream material from speaking to us directly. Allowing the psyche to have a life of its own could be seen as a break from narcissism.

At Amida Trust we do a lot of work around seeing others as other, people or things in their own right, not as a function of myself.

You mean, free of your own projections?

Yes. I wondered if you saw any overlap in these two approaches?

Well, you’re dealing with concrete examples there, real people, where the focus of my work is the inner as well as the outer life and exploring the relationship between the inner and outer life.

When a person is strong enough to let the psyche have a life of its own would you describe them as a fully functioning person?

Yes. The way I have conceptualised it in a paper I wrote on ‘Dreams, the Unconscious and the Person Centred Approach’ is that the self-actualised person can move more freely from the ego into their self material. Someone at the other end of the spectrum has no freedom of movement in this respect; their ego being subsumed within unconscious material.

The person you were talking about earlier who was working with a terrifying character in her dreams seems to be somewhere between these states. On the one hand she is working with an aspect of her psyche that has become objectified and separate from her in the form of a personification, while on the other hand she is too frightened to let go and hear what it has to say.

Yes, she is in between. The point of therapy is to help her develop the strength to allow aspects of her psyche to speak to her, without appropriating or distorting what comes up for her own ends. The client has to let herself be deconstructed and have her psyche reconstruct her. Analysis really is a process of dismemberment! [Laughter]You take yourself apart when you let the psyche speak. The ego can’t be the same again; it gets relativised – it has to see itself in relation to something much larger. You are then known by your self, by something much larger than yourself.The following quotation from Corinthians really speaks to this: "Now we know in part, but then shall we know even also as we are known." God needs man in order to be conscious, that’s why the unconscious is interested in us. People always dream… the unconscious longs to be known and longs for an individual to participate in this dialogue between consciousness and the unconscious.

Thank you

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