In the early 1980’s, I began consciously experiencing the full-blown, cumulative effects of trauma resulting from years of emotional abuse at the hands of my father. As I became more aware of the shattering impact that this abuse had on me, I was thirsting for someone with whom I could talk to about this on-going psychological violence, which was both happening in real time in my relationship with my father, as well as, much to my horror, inside of my mind. I was dreaming about connecting with someone who could understand and might be able to help me contain and integrate this now self-destructive process which had become internalized within my psyche. As if I was receiving my psychic inheritance, my father’s boundary transgressing and destruction-creating process had penetrated me and had been “transferred” over and into my psyche. Fundamental to abuse, the very thing which makes it abuse, is that it violates the sacred boundaries of our self and sets up residence within us. This was certainly true for me, as I watched myself participating in continually re-creating the abuse with my father inside of my own mind. This was both crazy-making and an expression of my own madness, a madness which resulted from the abuse itself, a form of PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder. I was looking for someone who I could share what was going on inside of me so as to help me lighten the psychic load I was carrying. At the time, I was living in the suburbs of New York City, and I soon found someone who I thought was a fairly enlightened psychiatrist with whom to work. She was a very caring person, intelligent, turned onto dreams, and well-intentioned. I saw her twice a week for close to seven years, traveling an hour and a half each way from the suburbs for my two one hour sessions, which, including traveling time, came to eight hours a week. I was totally committed to my recovery, and I saw these journeys as a sacred pilgrimage devoted to my healing. The psychiatrist and I made a very genuine connection, and over the years I noticed that I was internalizing her as a supportive and loving voice in my head, as if she was becoming a substitute, positive, loving parental figure inside of my psyche. She began regularly showing up in my dreams, which I would bring to her and we would work on together during our sessions. It was clear to me as I shared my process over the years that I was working through something with her that was unresolved with my father. As the years progressed, I definitely began feeling benefits from our work together. I felt like she was family. I loved her.
At a certain point in our work together, however, I began to notice what I experienced to be her unconscious blind-spots, which were the places, at least in my perception, where she unconsciously acted out her shadow and unknowingly abused her position of power and authority. We all have these unconscious blind-spots, as well as a shadow, so from my point of view, it was not necessarily problematic that she had unconscious parts, as who doesn’t? I was beginning to more consciously track and experience, however, how her unconscious shadow was being acted out in the field between us in a way that seemed to be hampering our work together. I had become very sensitive to these unconscious, shadow areas in people because of similar scenarios that got acted out in my family. Something increasingly didn’t feel right.
As soon as I began giving voice to my experience of what felt like her unconscious shadow, however, something very interesting happened. Up until then, our relationship had been very warm, supportive, loving - we had a really good rapport. But once I gave voice to my experience of what felt like her unconscious, she immediately got defensive and stepped into the role of being the authority figure who knew better. Her spontaneous reaction was to go on the offense and say, “I’m the doctor and you’re the patient. Coming here to tell me where I’m unconscious is a waste of time. I’m the healthy one and you’re the sick one.” I was shocked by her response. When I challenged her on this, she then proclaimed, as if dismissing the validity of my perceptions, “Well, none of my other patients express this to me,” to which I responded by saying, “Well, it seems that none of your other patients are tuned in in the way that I am.”
In her re-action, the psychiatrist was doing the very thing - unconsciously abusing her position of power – at which I was pointing. Synchronistically, in our interaction we had managed to re-create, in both literal and symbolic form, a self-similar iteration of the very abuse that I had come to her trying to heal. In our session together I had somehow dreamed her up to organically pick up a key role in the very unresolved psychodrama I was trying to work out with my father. Our work had transformed from me “telling her about” the abuse with my father, to her actively participating in playing a role in en-acting the very abuse she was supposed to be helping me to resolve.
Without getting into the story, the conflict with my father could be essentialized as follows: At a certain point in my life, as I was actively stepping into the process of separation from my family and individuation within myself by finding my own unique voice, my father would re-act by not only suppressing, but also trying to destroy my creative self-expression, abusing his position of power in the process. Whether he would go into murderous rages during which I was afraid of being killed, or have pseudo-heart attacks telling me that I was killing him, he seemed threatened beyond belief at the thought of me stepping into myself. He justified his actions by claiming that what he was doing was because he “loved” me so much, that he was acting this way “for my own good.” What my father played out in our relationship was an expression of his madness, while at the same time being truly crazy-making for me.
On the surface, the two scenarios with the psychiatrist and my father were quite different. In a certain fundamental way, however, they were similar – as me expressing my own unique voice separate from their point of view resulted in both of them abusing their position of power unconsciously, simply because they could. From one point of view, it was amazingly brilliant that the psychiatrist picked up this role in my process, as if she was helping me to more deeply access my unresolved issue with my father by playing it out with me. It didn’t take me long to figure out, however, much to my horror, that she was acting out this role unconsciously. She had not developed or didn’t have access to what is called a “meta-communicator,” the part of her that could step out of the role she was playing and both contemplate and communicate about it. Due to her unwillingness and inability to self-reflect, she was unable to step out of her unconscious identification with the role of authority figure, holding on to her rank with all her might as a defense against what I was attempting to point out. In retrospect, I realize now that her reaction was an expression of fear.
She was hiding behind the persona of the doctor, unconsciously identified with and attached to her position of power and privilege. She was monopolizing the role of the healthy one, casting me in the role of the sick one, because she’s the doctor and she says so! Synchronistically, the sick one, the identified patient, was the very role I played in my family system. Just like in my family, my experience was that I was seeing and pointing out the unconscious shadow, and then being told I was the one who was crazy. Of course, this raises the question, what inside of me has drawn this experience to me? What unconscious part of me is getting revealed through this process? In a dreaming process, when a situation or a symbol re-occurs more than once, like with my father, and then with the psychiatrist, something is being shown to me, as if in my recurring dream something is trying to get my attention.
In my interaction with the psychiatrist, I was left with the feeling of being concretized and not seen, which is a deep wound in myself whose origin (at least in this lifetime) was not being seen by my parents. When I feel not seen, I know from experience that the other person is either seeing my blind spot, or they are not seeing me, as they are seeing through their own blind spot. The psychiatrist wasn’t seeing my blind spot when she was telling me I was the sick one, she was revealing her own. My experience was that a deep unconscious wound within her was activated by our interaction, which acted as the lens or filter through which she related to me. It was like she wasn’t talking to “me,” but to some inner figure whom I seemed to represent in her mind. It was as if a figure inside of her head had become externalized as me, as if I had become a living dream figure (an aspect of herself) inside of her mind, and she in mine. As best as I could tell, she appeared to experience me as a threat to her power, authority, and overly positive image of herself. We were collaboratively dreaming each other up to play something out in the ritually created, shared space of the therapy.
During this incident with the psychiatrist, instead of the positive, healthy, awake, and growing parts of myself being seen and mirrored back to me through our interaction, in a power-play seemingly designed to protect her own unconscious shadow as well as keep me in my place, I had in no time become yet again the sick one. To quote Jung, “Just as it is the duty of parents and educators not to keep children on the infantile level but to lead them beyond it, so it is incumbent on the analyst not to treat patients as chronic invalids but to recognize them, in accordance with their spiritual development and insight, as more or less equal partners in the dialogue, with the same rights as himself.” Similar to my family, the psychiatrist was invalid-ating my experience, infantilizing me in the process. She was relating to me as if I were a mere child whose perceptions didn’t have merit, which is an abuse of power if there ever was one. From my point of view, she was projecting out her own unconscious madness, and had entranced herself, literally convinced of the objectivity of her projections. In our exchange, she wanted me to compliantly take on her idea of who I was, i.e., that I was sick, which from her point of view would be considered a successful “treatment.” There was something wrong with this picture.
No matter how skillfully I tried to point out to her the deeper, dreaming process which we were collaboratively creating, she didn’t seem to get nor appreciate what I was trying so desperately to help her understand. She was resistant to all my attempts at shedding light on the deeper, dreaming process that was unfolding between us, instead interpreting my interest in what was going on between us as a distraction and resistance to working on myself, which was ultimately crazy-making. Up until this incident, we could talk about anything. From this point on, however, just like with my father, there was stuff we couldn’t talk about, a “don’t go there zone.” Jung comments, “An analyst who cannot risk his authority will be sure to lose it.” Our conflict never came to resolution, and this led me to ultimately stop my work with her and leave.
What we don’t remember and make conscious, we often act out, even evoking and dreaming up the seemingly external field around us to collude with us so as to give living shape and form to our inner process. Whatever we repress, deny, or split-off from, we tend to unconsciously and compulsively re-enact in the present, as if we are unknowingly trying to complete an incomplete process. We will project outside of ourselves and “transfer” onto others unconscious parts of ourselves, dreaming them up to play certain roles, so as to help us to actually recreate and act out our inner, unconscious process in full-bodied form as an unconscious way of seeking resolution. Paradoxically, these enactments are simultaneously the “problem” as well as our attempt to solve it. Speaking about what happens in the analytic vessel of psychotherapy, Freud writes, “The decisive part of the work is achieved by creating in the patient’s relation to the doctor – in the ‘transference’ – new editions of the old conflicts.” In the transference, the patient is given the opportunity to work through these “new editions of the old conflicts” with the doctor, both parties participating in potentially creating a container to house a corrective emotional experience such that the unresolved psychological energy that was bound up in the compulsion to endlessly re-create the patient’s psychic dis-ease is liberated in the service of creativity and healing. The transference is a channel for the repetition compulsion of the traumatized soul to unwind itself through the vehicle of relationship.
The psychological process of transference is a specific form of the more general process of projection that happens in the analytic vessel of therapy. “Projection,” to quote Jung, “does not depend upon his will; it is simply a phenomenon that produces itself. Projection is an automatic, spontaneous fact. It is simply there; you do not know how it happens. You just find it there. And this rule, which holds good for projection in general, is also true of transference. Transference is something which is just there. If it exists at all, it is there a priori.” [Please note: due to the numerous Jung quotations that follow in which he uses the masculine pronoun for both doctor and patient, for the sake of clarity and consistency, unless referring specifically to my old psychiatrist, I will do the same]. The transference is an underlying, deeper pattern of relationship which, being a priori, already exists in a dimension outside of time. It magnetically draws people together and configures their relationships so as to incarnate itself in time in ever-novel, and yet ever-the-same ways. Speaking of the doctor’s role in the transference, Jung comments, “Often it is in full swing before he has even opened his mouth.” Being a priori, the transference is pre-existent, waiting for the right people to come together and be “coupled,” so that it can play itself out in form.
Transference is the vehicle of the process of individuation in the relationship channel. It is something which happens between two individuals which typically takes the form of an emotional connection, bonding and entangling them together in a compulsive way. The intensity of the transference is always equivalent to the nature and importance of the projected content. In the transference, a deeper emotion literally comes through the patient and affects and in-forms his perceptions of the doctor. To quote Jung, “the emotion of the projected content always forms a link, a sort of dynamic relationship between the subject and the object – and that is the transference. Naturally, this emotional link or bridge or elastic string can be positive or negative, as you know.” The transference forcibly ties the subject, the source of the projection, to the object, the recipient, in a way that tends to fascinate, and fasten together, both of their psyches, in an unconscious identity.
The problem of the transference is, to quote Jung, “a phenomenon that may be regarded as the crux, or at any rate the crucial experience, in any thorough-going analysis.” Jung writes, “The enormous importance that Freud attached to the transference phenomenon became clear to me at our first personal meeting in 1907. After a conversation lasting many hours there came a pause. Suddenly he asked me out of the blue, ‘And what do you think about the transference?’ I replied with the deepest conviction that it was the alpha and omega of the analytical method, whereupon he said, ‘Then you have grasped the main thing.’” Whereas Freud was more concerned about the cause of the transference, however, Jung was more interested in its purpose, as he sensed that hidden within the phenomenon of transference were the seeds of further development. According to Jung, the skillful handling of the transference was the very thing which determined the success, or lack thereof, of the therapeutic work between doctor and patient.
Transference in psychotherapy is just a special case of a universal phenomenon that happens in varying degrees between everyone, 24/7. We are all constantly transferring a condition which originates within our psyches onto the world around us, and to the extent we are not aware of this dynamic, we will react to our externalized projections as if they objectively exist outside of ourselves. Jung comments, “The transference itself is a perfectly natural phenomenon which does not by any means happen only in the consulting room – it can be seen everywhere and may lead to all sorts of nonsense, like all unrecognized projections.” The key difference is that the analytic vessel is a container, a ritually maintained time and space, to consciously engage with and unfold the transference. Speaking about the ubiquity of the transference phenomenon, Jung says, “Indeed, in any human relationship that is at all intimate, certain transference phenomena will almost always operate as helpful or disturbing factors.” The phenomenon of transference is revealing something to us about the nature of relationship itself.
Transference isn’t some sort of esoteric and elitist psychological theory. It is a phenomenon that happens universally and continuously when people come together. In a fundamental yet oftentimes unrecognized dynamic inherent in all human interpersonal interactions, mutual projections and counter-projections are naturally constellated in the intermediate space - the field - between us. We are deeply sensitive beings whose psyches are always touching and intermingling with each other. How we relate to, and dream up, one another deeply affects each other, our perception of the world and our experience of ourselves. This reciprocal exchange is simply the interactive and inter-activating nature of every human relationship. To deny our participatory role in this mutually creative process is both ignorant and a form of madness (please see my article “Delusions of Separation”). We are inherently relational beings, in that deep down we don’t exist as discrete, separate entities, but rather, at a fundamental level, are indivisible expressions of a deeper, underlying interconnected field. The psychiatrist, however, treated me as if I existed as an isolated, solidified entity who had an “illness” that wasn’t related to the family in which I was contained. Her compartmentalized view of me was totally inconsistent with the very nature of reality. She didn’t recognize that my “sickness” was an expression of my pathological family system, a system in which she was now unwittingly playing a role.
Transference always reflex-ively evokes a “countertransference” re-action from the doctor. Jung writes, “The patient, by bringing an activated unconscious content to bear upon the doctor, constellates the corresponding unconscious material in him, owing to the inductive effect which always emanates from projections in greater or lesser degree. Doctor and patient thus find themselves in a relationship founded on mutual unconsciousness.” Being in their unconscious together, it is as if doctor and patient are creating a shared dream in the time and space of the analytic vessel. Both transference and the corresponding countertransference are co-related, mirror-like, and complementary parts of one and the same deeper process, mutually conditioning each other and reciprocally co-arising together. One is never found without the other. Inseparable aspects of a deeper whole, transference and countertransference are expressions of an all-inclusive, acausal, unified, and potentially unifying field. Speaking about the role of the doctor, Jung comments, “he is a fellow participant who finds himself involved in the dialectical process [an engagement between two people based on reciprocal give and take] just as deeply as the so-called patient.”
Jung continues, “By no device can the treatment be anything but the product of mutual influence, in which the whole being of the doctor as well as that of his patient plays its part. In the treatment there is an encounter between two irrational factors [the unconscious of both doctor and patient]…For two personalities to meet is like mixing two different chemical substances: if there is any combination at all, both are transformed. In any effective psychological treatment the doctor is bound to influence the patient; but this influence can only take place if the patient has a reciprocal influence on the doctor. You can exert no influence if you are not susceptible to influence. It is futile for the doctor to shield himself from the influence of the patient and to surround himself with a smoke-screen of fatherly and professional authority. By so doing he only denies himself the use of a highly important organ of information.” The “whole being” – the unconscious and the conscious, the shadow and the light parts, of both doctor and patient are dynamically engaged in and by the work. “Art totum requirit hominem,” is an alchemical saying that means “the art requires the whole man,” words that are just as relevant for the “art” of psychotherapy as for alchemy.
For the doctor, a highly important “organ of information” is to bring awareness to how he himself gets dreamed up relative to the patient’s process. In other words, consciously reflecting upon the role he picks up in his own countertransference reactions actually helps him more understand both himself and the patient, as well as simultaneously, and nonlocally, helping the patient. The doctor is then able to follow, instead of trying to control, what I call “the dreaming” between them. The doctor allows himself to get dreamed up by the patient, so as to actively participate with and in the patient’s process and help it unfold to its natural liberation. This involves empowering the patient to step into his power, which might even involve touching the doctor’s wound. The accomplished doctor develops the ability to discriminate between when he is compulsively acting out his unconscious wounds with the patient, which only serves to re-create the patient’s trauma, compared to when he is able to develop a relationship with his own unconscious and metabolize his wounds in such a way that empowers him to be able to help the patient unfold his process. As if consciously dreaming together with the patient leading, the doctor can engage with the patient in a fully embodied form of living, and lived-through active imagination. Dreaming their shared process through to completion in the relationship channel is a truly embodied alchemical “coniunctio,” a coming together of the opposites, an incarnation of the Self, in real time and space.
I refer to this process of how projections constellate counter-projections as “the dreaming.” The dreaming is the shared, interactive space between us which in-forms us. The dreaming is the deeper, underlying dynamic which shapes our reactions and configures our relation to each other. I am dreaming you up, but you are dreaming me up to dream you up, ad infinitum and vice versa at the same time. The dreaming is the space between us in which our relationship happens. The dreaming is a whole, self-perfected, and self-contained universe, a living entity, a mutually shared dream that is clothing itself in our form as it reveals itself in ever new guises. The dreaming takes “two to tango,” so to speak, in that it is created by being in relationship with each other. We have conjured up the dreaming through our collaborative inter-action, and there is a way of “following the dreaming” that can awaken us to a deeper level of freedom and healing.
Jung writes that “the doctor is as much ‘in the analysis’ as the patient. He is equally a part of the psychic process of treatment and therefore equally exposed to the transforming influences. Indeed, to the extent that the doctor shows himself impervious to this influence, he forfeits influence over the patient; and if he is influenced only unconsciously, there is a gap in his field of consciousness which makes it impossible for him to see the patient in true perspective. In either case, the result of the treatment is compromised…The doctor is therefore faced with the same task which he wants his patient to face” To the extent there is a “gap,” a blind spot, in the “field of consciousness” of the doctor, making it “impossible” for him to “see the patient in true perspective,” this will invariably activate and recreate the archetypal wound in the patient of feeling not seen. It certainly did in my case. The doctor finds himself in the role of modeling and embodying what he wants the patient to do, i.e., add consciousness to what is triggered within himself and self-reflect (in Buddhism, this is called “the lion’s gaze”). The doctor is only able to help the patient as far as he himself has integrated his unconscious and consciously evolved and awakened.
If we are privileged enough to see another’s blind spots and want them to see where they currently cannot, we have to be willing to see our own blind spots. Being nonlocal, when we see the unconscious in others, we can be sure that this experience constellates the unconscious within ourselves. I’m sure when I saw the psychiatrist’s unconscious, it activated my own, just as seeing my unconscious must have activated hers. We can’t say her unconsciousness “caused” mine, or that mine “caused” hers, as our mutual process was acausal and nonlinear, without a beginning in time, reciprocally co-arising together. We were both in our unconscious together, as if we were collaboratively dreaming up a shared dream into materialization in the ritually created shared space of the therapeutic vessel.
We access and unlock the deeper places in us that are stuck, frozen in time, as if in trauma, by dreaming up actual situations in em-bodied form to play out within a “container” (interestingly, the word “contain” means both to “include,” as well as “restrain”). A safe and sealed container is a sacred space in which to consciously give form to, en-act, and liberate these deeper habitual patterns which don’t serve us. This is the underlying teleology (purpose or goal) of the repetition compulsion of the traumatized soul, who is trying to complete an incomplete process as he continually enacts and recreates his wound. This dreamlike and fluid universe does not exist in a solidified state, and yet, sometimes we have to solidify the waking dream, concretizing the other for a moment in time in order to work something out. We need someone in solid-seeming form to push up against, to have it out with, so as to be able to unlock, unwind and dis-charge our unconsciously held-in trauma.
In our mutual interaction, instead of the psychiatrist being the one who was conscious, thereby helping to provide the psychic container for transformation, in a role switch, I was being dreamed up to be the one who was the carrier of awareness of something that the psychiatrist was unable to see in the relational dynamic between the two of us. Like déjà vu all over again, this is the same scenario that I played out within my own family. I was ultimately being dreamed up in my interaction with the psychiatrist of having to choose between either stepping more fully into my power by staying connected to and standing for my experience, or in taking on her version of the way things are, I’d be giving away my power, dissociating from myself, and falling into self-deception, which is to be complicit in my own victimization and become my own abuser. I was being dreamed up right to my edge, where I was asked to make a choice. I was invited to potentially liberate my habitual pattern of not being able to fully express myself and give voice to my experience; I was being offered the opportunity to re-create myself anew, to consciously incarnate in the flesh, to change the dream I was having.
Paradoxically, I was both seeing the psychiatrist and not seeing her simultaneously. On the one hand, my subjective experience was very clear: I was seeing her unconscious blind-spot. But on the other hand, I was projecting onto the psychiatrist, transferring my unhealed wounds with my father onto her, as if she had gotten drafted into playing a role in my activated dreaming process. I was in an unusual, but very significant, state of heightened awareness - I was seeing the unconscious in the field, while at the same time, as if I was dreaming, I was living out my unconscious. Because of our (hopefully) shared intention to transduce light and illuminate the unconscious, the psychiatrist and I had evoked the spirit of the unconscious to play itself out between us.
When the unconscious is activated within us, it always nonlocally constellates the corresponding unconscious material in whomever we come in touch with. Potentially having either a positive or negative effect, the spirit of the unconscious will either diabolically divide and separate us, or if we can “contain” it by joint reflection, this spirit can inspire us to greater consciousness and deeper connection. As soon as any of us come together, we mutually dream up the field to play out our unconscious; or to say it differently - the unconscious spirit of the field dreams us up to act it out. Something is always being revealed to us in the process.
The vignette with the psychiatrist was a synchronistic, embodied reflection of an unconscious process within my own mind, as if I was dreaming up my unconscious in living, externalized form so as to potentially wake myself up. What I was playing out with the psychiatrist was a reflection of my internal process of how I not only give away, but abuse, my own power. I had dreamed up the psychiatrist to literally embody and symbolize this asleep part of myself. Not recognizing the mutuality of our shared dreaming, she didn’t realize that what was happening between us was a co-creative, reflective process. Her resistance to taking any responsibility for the mutuality of our shared experience left me to carry the whole burden of the activated unconscious in the field. Seemingly bewitched by her own unconscious, it was as if she was both under a self-created spell and casting a spell at the same time.
Like my father, the psychiatrist was embodying the “mad” part of myself, as if the inner, mad part of me that pathologizes and entrances myself was appearing outside of myself in the living form of the psychiatrist. To the extent we are not fully awake, we all have a mad part. The part of us that thinks we don’t have a mad part is itself our mad part! Just like my father, the psychiatrist projected her own madness outside of herself, which itself was an expression of her madness. In a truly maddening situation, the psychiatrist, with the full authority of the state behind her, unconsciously acted out her madness in the analytic vessel, insisting that I was the one who was mad. In un-reflectingly projecting out her shadow of unconscious madness, which is a true abuse of power, the psychiatrist was unknowingly acting out the deeper, underlying archetypal process that is making us all sick in the first place. Just like any little piece of a hologram is an expression of the whole hologram, the psychiatrist was reflecting and playing out an unconscious dynamic existing within the field of psychiatry as a whole, not to mention an archetypal process that is playing out collectively on the world stage, as well as within ourselves.
In a process that happens in, over and outside of time, when two or more people come together, projections activate counter-projections and create a mutually shared dream of relationship. For example, say I have an unhealed wound in my psyche. If I go to sleep tonight and dream, my unhealed wound will be sure to show up in my dreams, as my night dreams are a projection or reflection of my inner process. In a similar way, I will unconsciously connect the dots and give meaning to the inkblot called waking life, just like I did with the psychiatrist, so as to dream up into materialization my inner process that needs resolution. I will unconsciously dream up and attract to myself someone in the outer world with whom to play out my unhealed, inner process. All it takes is the slightest “hook” in the other upon which I can hang my projection. The hook is like a piece of velcro where my projection becomes lodged, as it is where the other buys into (and secretly agrees with) my projection. Even though this part of him that has a resonance with my projection might be 1% of who he is, my attention will tend to focus on this 1% of him as being all of who he is. Jung comments, “The moment one forms an idea of a thing and successfully catches one of its aspects, one invariably succumbs to the illusion of having caught the whole.” My focusing on and relating to only one part of the other will amplify this particular quality in him, making it more likely that he will step into and embody this very quality, providing all the evidence I need to prove to myself even more that this is who he actually is, further entrenching me in my viewpoint of seeing him this way, which only serves to further draw this quality out of him, in a self-confirming and self-perpetuating feedback loop which becomes a mutually created self-fulfilling prophecy.
And of course, like a marriage made in heaven (or potentially, hell), in a mirrored template that fits like a lock and a key, the other is reciprocally dreaming me up to play out their unconscious process in a similar way. In a mutually created, shared dream, we are dreaming each other up to play out roles in each other’s process. When this mutual dreaming process fully emerges and bodies forth, like it did with the psychiatrist and I playing the leading roles, each person becomes a fully embodied dream character, an incarnation of a living figure inside of the other’s mind. As if co-creating a shared dream-space to inhabit together, at this point we are as much in the psyche as the psyche is within us. Something deeper is revealing itself through our synchronistic interplay. To recognize this in oneself is to become lucid in the waking dream. When both people involved in the transference recognize this and become co-operatively lucid together, they can collaboratively play with and transform the shared waking dream they are having, which is evolution in action. This is a reflection in the microcosm, an iteration of a fractal on the small scale of individual relationship, of what is available to us, macrocosmically speaking, as a species.
We are always dreaming others up while at the same time being dreamed up by them. I imagine we have all experienced, consciously or otherwise, what it feels like to be dreamed up by someone else into their process. With certain people, we find parts of ourselves that we usually don’t manifest getting drawn out of us, as if the other for some reason needs someone to play this particular role for them. As we watch and participate in how we get drafted into the other person’s inner process, we discover that synchronistically, the role we are cast in is not just showing us something about them, but at the same time is revealing a previously unconscious part of ourselves as well.
Jung writes, “Now, it is a regular observation that when you talk to an individual and he gives you insight into his inner preoccupations, interests, emotions – in other words, hands over his personal complexes – you gradually get into position of authority whether you like it or not.…They hand out a big emotional value, as if they were handing over a large sum, as if they were trusting you with the administration of their estate, and they are entirely in your hands….Now that, you see, creates an emotional relationship to the analyst, and that is what Freud called the transference….It is just as if these people had handed over their whole existence, and that can have very peculiar effects upon the individual. Either they hate you for it, or they love you for it, but you are never indifferent to them....So in handing over your infantile memories about the father or about the mother, you also hand over the image of father and mother. Then it is just as if the analyst had taken the place of the father, or even of the mother…. So the patients hand themselves over in the hope that I can swallow that stuff and digest it for them.” Patients are in essence asking for help with their psyche, with their very soul. When “patients hand themselves over” and share their hidden, emotional vulnerabilities and secrets with the analyst, the analyst truly becomes a significant other.
Built into the very system of going to a doctor “for help” is an asymmetrical power imbalance. Because of the doctor being cast in the role of the authority, this inherent power inequality will set the stage for whatever unhealed power and control issues, both in the doctor and the patient, to unconsciously “play” out in the “field” of their relationship. To the extent the patient is in a dis-empowered state, not in touch with his intrinsic power, he will project out his own unconscious power onto the doctor and literally dream up the doctor to carry and embody this power. The doctor then becomes a figure with whom the patient will be fascinated, repelled by, identify with, etc. The patient is reacting to the unconscious, split-off part of himself that he has projected out, put into, and dreamed up in the living form of the doctor, a process called “projective identification.” The doctor then “carries” these unconscious contents for the patient. To the extent the doctor has an unconscious, unresolved power-complex, however, he will unconsciously identify with this power invested in him by the patient and become inflated by the underlying archetype. His unconscious identification with the archetype feeds into and animates the shadow to destructively play itself out in the therapeutic vessel.
What is activated in the doctor via his engagement with the patient is an inseparable amalgam of the doctor’s unconscious contents combined with the psychic material of the patient (the reverse is also true for what is activated in the patient). To quote Jung, “in the same measure as the doctor assimilates the intimate psychic contents of the patient into himself, he is in turn assimilated as a figure into the patient’s psyche. I say ‘as a figure,’ because I mean that the patient sees him not as he really is, but as one of those persons who figured so significantly in his previous history…as though he were charged with the power of those memory images.” If the doctor is open to receiving the patient and finding the analogous resonances within himself, the patient, through an act of introjection, reciprocally takes the doctor into his own psychic landscape. Through the transference, the doctor becomes the re-presentation of the original figure, as if the doctor is fully invested with the “power of those memory images,” carrying the same influence, meaning and authority in the patient’s head as did the original cast member.
The transference is not just a carry over of unresolved personal issues with our family, however, but is also transpersonal in nature, which means that at a deeper level it is in-formed by the archetypes of the collective unconscious. Paradoxically, the archetypal dimension of the transference is accessed by fully entering into and playing out the seemingly personal process between the doctor and patient. Both doctor and patient are merely playing roles in a deeper, mythic, archetypal process that has enacted itself in endless variations throughout human history and which is revealing itself to them through their own uniquely personal interaction. The interactive field in-between them is not only dreamed up by the unconscious parts of both of them, but is the intersection of the collective unconscious and each individual’s personal, subjective process. As doctor and patient become conscious of this underlying field in which they are contained, they become aware of the “linking structure” that determines the nature and form of their interactions. Because of their growing meta-awareness, which is a genuine expansion of consciousness, they snap out of interpreting their experiences from the personal point of view and are able to perceive the deeper, transpersonal dimension of their experience. This realization creates the space for them to step out of unconsciously identifying with and personalizing their interactions, but rather, recognize that they are playing roles in a deeper, archetypal, and impersonal process which could potentially be transformational for both parties.
Interestingly, one of the underlying fundamental processes that is wreaking havoc as it plays itself out collectively on the world stage is the archetypal myth of the “negative father.” The archetypal figure of the negative father has to do with domination, abusing power, and establishing hierarchical authority over others. Not only was my unhealed father process recapitulating itself with the psychiatrist; my personal process was a reflection of a deeper, archetypal process enfolded in the macrocosm. Like an inter-nested iteration of a fractal, my interaction with the psychiatrist was a reflection of my unresolved process with my father, which was a projection of what was happening within my psyche, which itself is a mirror of the process playing out in the world’s collective body politic. The mythic father, in its negative, terrible form, is the archetypal force that is nonlocally in-forming human destructiveness and abuse of power all over the planet, as well as within ourselves. And yet, encoded in seemingly hidden form within this archetype is our own intrinsic power, as it challenges us to find and speak our true voice, access and step into our place of empowerment and true authority, and in so doing connect with the intrinsic wholeness of the Self.
Compared to the more personal aspects of the transference which have to do with the residue from unresolved issues with parents, the archetypal transference creates a bridge between the patient’s unconscious and an unconscious transcendent “other,” which, through the therapeutic instrument of the transference, is being temporarily projected onto the doctor. This projected other is a content of the collective unconscious, and should not be interpreted personalistically by being reduced to a memory of the actual parents. Whereas the personal dimension of the transference has to do with liberating the ego from the unhealthy effects of the parent’s unconscious, as well as strengthening the patient’s sense of self, the archetypal or transpersonal dimension of the transference connects and relates the patient with an inner other, a transcendental center of authority arising from being in touch with the living wholeness within themselves (please see my article “Meeting the Other Within”).
Both the personal and transpersonal levels are operating simultaneously – the doctor is playing out the role of our personal mother and/or father, which is at the same time an image in-formed by the underlying archetype of the divine parent. Similar to our parents, the doctor is channeling and carrying the archetypal image of a divine figure that exists deep within each of our psyches. Accessing the archetypal dimension of the transference is a very powerful experience due to the enormous psychic energy contained in the archetypal images. Jung comments, “And when your patient’s transference touches upon the archetypes, you touch upon a mine that may explode, just as we see it exploding collectively.” The archetypes contain extremely potent, nuclear “psychic” energy. It is important to have an alchemical, hermetically sealed container, such as the analytic vessel of therapy, in which to mediate, humanize, and integrate these archetypal energies. As the transference is successfully worked through, the patient becomes introduced to the transpersonal other who lives inside of his own soul. Encoded within these archetypal energies are hidden treasures with our “names” on them.
Both the patient and the doctor are embodied, mirrored reflections of each other. Just as there is, in potential, a doctor within the patient, there is also a patient within the doctor. Jung comments, “what the doctor fails to see in himself he either will not see at all, or will see grossly exaggerated, in his patient; further, he encourages those things to which he himself unconsciously inclines, and condemns everything that he abhors in himself. Just as one rightly expects the surgeon’s hands to be free from infection, so one ought to insist with especial emphasis that the psychotherapist be prepared at all times to exercise adequate self-criticism.” Jung was the first to insist that the analyst be analyzed. To the extent we haven’t shed light on our own darkness, we act out our darker sides in our life. How can we help others illumine the darkness of their unconscious if we aren’t able to see our own darkness?
Jung writes, “Surgery and obstetrics have long been aware that it is not enough simply to wash the patient – the doctor himself must have clean hands. A neurotic psychotherapist will invariably treat his own neurosis in the patient.” The doctor’s blind spots could potentially contaminate his work with the patient, contributing to the patient’s struggles, potentially re-creating the very wound and trauma from which the patient is trying to heal. If the doctor is unconscious, he will actually dream up the patient to unwittingly play out aspects of the doctor’s unconscious.
To the extent the doctor is unwilling or unable to self-reflect is the extent to which the doctor will unknowingly abuse his position of power simply because he can. His unwillingness to self-reflect while wielding the levers of power is itself abuse of power. Even if his behavior is not conscious, the doctor is nevertheless failing to exercise the primary requisite capacities necessary for the proper execution of his profession, and in a very real sense is guilty of genuine “mal-practice.” In these cases, the doctor’s negligence of his duties as a physician of the soul is harder to see than incompetence in other, more concrete fields, and hence is often disregarded, as he is operating in the province of the psyche, which is hidden, shrouded in mystery and misunderstanding. Due to his unwillingness or inability to self-reflect, however, the doctor is unwittingly being used as an instrument for the will-to-power of the archetypal shadow to destructively act itself out in the therapeutic vessel. Jung writes, “Thus transference and countertransference, if their contents remain unconscious, create abnormal and untenable relationships which aim at their own destruction.” The doctor, in projecting out and seeing illness only in the patient, distances himself from his own potential for weakness, delusion, and illness, unconsciously elevating himself and degrading the patient, becoming “powerful” through using his position of power to mask his own psychological failure and in-authenticity. The extent to which the doctor, the one holding the power in the relationship, unconsciously holds onto, is attached, and even addicted to power, is the extent to which he is willing to abuse his power in order to keep it. This dynamic is a reflection of a deeper, archetypal process that is happening collectively, writ large on the world stage, not to mention within ourselves.
Jung gives a beautifully concise expression of how to genuinely be of psychological help for another when he says, “If I wish to treat another individual psychologically at all, I must for better or worse give up all pretensions to superior knowledge, all authority and desire to influence.” Even the doctor’s well-intentioned desire to help can be an unconscious reaction against something that the patient is reminding him of within himself. Of course, genuinely wanting the patient to heal is a totally beautiful impulse. The intention to want the patient to heal, however, at times can potentially be an expression of the doctor’s shadow, in that it can be an unconscious reaction to his own fear, as well as a strategy to assuage it - for if the patient heals, then the doctor might feel safer, as well as better about himself. In thinking he knows “what’s best” for the patient, the doctor can potentially tyrannize the patient with his good intentions. It is easy for the doctor to unconsciously act out his own unacknowledged arrogance, as ultimately speaking, none of us are in a privileged position to know what’s karmically best for another person.
Jung writes, “The transference is like those medicines which are a panacea for one and pure poison for another.” He continues, “…it makes all the difference whether the doctor sees himself as a part of the drama, or cloaks himself in his authority…The therapist must at all times keep watch over himself, over the way he is reacting to his patient.” The more the doctor is in touch with his own countertransference reactions, the more the patient will be aided in the healing process. It is the doctor’s response to the countertransference that is the essential therapeutic factor in analysis. To quote Jung, “We could say, without too much exaggeration, that a good half of every treatment that probes at all deeply consists in the doctor’s examining himself, for only what he can put right in himself can he hope to put right in the patient.” Self-reflecting and working with his own unconscious reactions to the patient is the moral responsibility of the doctor. The doctor bringing awareness to his countertransference helps to create the analytic vessel to be a safe container for genuine transformation to occur. If the doctor can become aware of the deeper, archetypal process which is enacting itself through their mutual interaction, he can step out of the idea of a separate self and recognize their interconnectivity, and thus relinquish an attitude that is based on power. Not necessarily feeling compelled to dis-spell the patient’s projections, the doctor can choose instead to take on, step into and play out the patient’s projections with him in the analytic vessel. He can then consciously help to further unfold the transference and adroitly follow the dreaming with the patient, such that their mutually shared dynamic becomes a transformational feedback loop, a vehicle which offers a creative opportunity for evolutionary growth for both doctor and patient.
Simultaneously observer and participant in a mutually shared process, both doctor and patient are in the alchemical bath together. Jung says “Psychological induction inevitably causes the two parties to get involved in the transformation of the third and to be themselves transformed in the process.” As soon as two people come together, a “third” becomes invoked, which is the spirit of relationship between them. This third thing, the “field” in which something greater than themselves is created through their interaction, is the medium through which the transference unfolds itself. This spirit of relationship dreams up who both of them are relative to each other.
“The third” is the reciprocally co-arising, interactive field which is dreamed up between them. Doctor and patient are dreaming up the field, while at the same time, in a circular, rather than a linear process, the field is dreaming them up. The field has its own rules, intentions, and creative power. The field is the “place” with no location where the boundary dissolves between inner and outer, as well as between the doctor and patient. Just like a dream, what is playing out in the seemingly external field between them is a reflection of what’s going on deep inside both the doctor and patient, as well as within the collective unconscious itself. The third is in between the field of the collective unconscious and the realm of personal subjectivity, while at the same time including them both. At points it is impossible to tell which contents of the field belong to whom, as both doctor and patient are in their unconscious together, collaboratively dreaming up the field between them. Jung writes, “This situation is difficult and distressing for both parties; often the doctor is in much the same position as the alchemist who no longer knew whether he was melting the mysterious amalgam in the crucible or whether he was the salamander glowing in the fire.” [In the alchemical imagination, salamander’s are one of the many symbols for the “prima materia,” the unconscious stuff which is in need of transformation] Is the unconscious that the doctor sees in the patient the patient’s unconscious, or is it a reflection of the doctor’s? Jung comments, “The elusive, deceptive, ever-changing content that possesses the patient like a demon now flits about from patient to doctor and, as the third party in the alliance, continues its game, sometimes impish and teasing, sometimes really diabolical.” It’s as if a living, autonomous, and mercurial spirit has insinuated itself into the field of their relationship, and is playing itself out through their shared unconscious.
One key difference between doctor and patient, hopefully, is that the doctor has a strong enough sense of who he is, so as to not become unknowingly taken over by the unconscious, but rather, becomes in ever-more conscious relationship with these unknown, mysterious contents. It is the responsibility of the doctor to not allow the manifestations of the unconscious between them to escape and vaporize back into the unconscious unrecognized, but rather, to anchor this unconscious spirit to consciousness so as to be worked on in the container of the analytic vessel. Jung comments, “We must suppose as a matter of course that the doctor is the better able to make the constellated contents conscious, otherwise it would only lead to mutual imprisonment in the same state of unconsciousness.” In our interaction, the psychiatrist and I had switched roles, as I was the one who was trying to avoid “mutual imprisonment” by making the “constellated contents conscious.”
By carrying light into the darkness of the unconscious, the accomplished doctor, at least in theory, differentiates and develops discrimination between the opposites, between what is personal and archetypal, between which contents belong, on one level, to the patient, and which belong to the doctor. As the doctor metabolizes and integrates the unconscious aspects which have gotten activated within him, he is being an instrument for lighting and lightening up the entire field. By transforming himself, the doctor has touched the archetypal level of the collective unconscious itself, which has a nonlocal influence that is felt throughout the whole field of consciousness. In re-creating himself anew, the doctor nonlocally re-creates, at a fundamental, quantum level, the whole universe, too.
Something gets created within us by being in relationship with each other, as if the stuff of which the soul is made becomes animated, enlivened, and potentially transmuted into a new state when we truly connect with someone else. Jung writes, “The unrelated human being lacks wholeness, for he can achieve wholeness only through the soul, and the soul cannot exist without its other side, which is always found in a “You.” The experience of being seen by someone else with our hand in the cookie jar of our unconscious is qualitatively different than when we think we see our own unconscious, which is oftentimes just the idea of our unconscious. Realizing that another is seeing us in our unconscious is a reflection of, as well as initiating within ourselves, a process in which we are beginning to see our own unconscious. The other is the part of us, projected out and dreamed up outside of who we imagine ourselves to be, that is seeing our own unconscious. Elaborating on the strong instinct for “human connection,” Jung comments, “That is the core of the whole transference phenomenon, and it is impossible to argue it away, because 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.”
The countertransference emerges right where the doctor is “touched” by the patient. The transference often has for its true object the doctor’s own point of wounding, and it is from this unconscious wound in the doctor that the countertransference originates. The doctor’s countertransference reactions will be provoked by the patient’s transference particularly in the places in which the doctor is unconscious of the quality projected upon him by the patient. Jung says, “It often happens that the patient is exactly the right plaster for the doctor’s sore spot. Because this is so, difficult situations can arise for the doctor, too – or rather, especially for the doctor.” The transference works directly on the unconscious of the doctor, as it penetrates his wound, similar to how, archetypally, the God enters through the wound. Speaking of this “open wound” in the doctor, Jung comments, “somewhere there is an open door which he does not control, and there a patient will get in.”
THE WOUNDED HEALER
Jung writes that, “the true physician does not stand outside his work but is always in the thick of it.” The doctor is not just a blank screen, a passive witness sitting in the audience, behind a thick sheet of protective glass, holding space for the patient’s process, but on the contrary, is a participatory, active agent in the unfoldment and transformation of the patient’s living process. Jung says, “A genuine participation, going right beyond professional routine, is absolutely imperative, unless of course, the doctor prefers to jeopardize the whole proceeding by evading his own problems.” In the transference, the patient’s problems will get under the doctor’s skin and activate his own problems; everything depends upon what the doctor is able to do about this within himself. Jung writes, “The treatment of the transference reveals in a pitiless light what the healing agent really is: it is the degree to which the analyst himself can cope with his own psychic problems.” A healer often experiences that whomever they are working with are synchronistic reflections of parts of himself. Jung says, “If for some reason these mutual impressions do not impinge on each other, the psychotherapeutic process remains ineffective, and no change is produced. Unless both doctor and patient become a problem to each other, no solution is found.” By activating each other’s unconscious, doctor and patient become a “problem to each other,” in the sense that their own inner processes have become quantum entangled to such a degree that they are playing out, in fully embodied form, mirrored aspects of one another’s unresolved, unconscious issues. By triggering each others unconscious complexes, the unconscious enters into play in their field as their relationship deepens in intimacy.
Jung says, “Just as all doctors are exposed to infections and other occupational hazards, so the psychotherapist runs the risk of psychic infections which are no less menacing. On the one hand he is often in danger of getting entangled in the neuroses of his patients; on the other hand, if he tries too hard to guard against their influence, he robs himself of his therapeutic efficacy. Between this Scylla and this Charybdis lies the peril, but also the healing power.” It’s a razor’s edge and a slippery slope, but the middle path between the opposites is one that every would-be healer has to learn to navigate.
Jung writes, “The doctor is effective only when he himself is affected. ‘Only the wounded physician heals.’ But when the doctor wears his personality like a coat of armor, he has no effect.” The doctor is called to be a genuine human being, one who is capable of being “vulnerable” (the Latin word “vulnus” means “wound”). We are all potential wounded healers (please see my articles “The Wounded Healer, Part 1,” and “The Wounded Healer, Part 2”). Only someone who has truly suffered himself can help others to heal. Only he who bears sickness as an existential possibility within himself can constellate the healing factor in others. Because the figure of the wounded healer consciously knows the experience of being wounded, he is able to bear it with others. For the wounded healer, suffering is certainly not something to seek out, but when it presents itself it is seen as a numinous experience, a sharing in Christ’s passion, a purification, a gift from God, and an initiation into the deeper mystery of the underlying, all-pervasive continuum of unified being. The wounded healer, Jung writes, shows “the mythological truth that the wounded is the agent of healing, and that the sufferer takes away suffering.”
The archetypal figure of the shaman literally takes the other’s illness into himself, which is always a wounding experience – hence the shaman is an iteration of the wounded healer. A psychotherapist is in fact very much like a shaman, in that both have very direct experience of the unconscious, in both its light, and dark aspects. Due to his extreme empathy, a shamanic healer feels into and introjects the conflict of the patient within himself, as if the conflict is transferred into his own psyche. Any person with shamanic sensibilities has what I call “tel-empathy,” a highly developed telepathic sense of empathy, which combines the telepathic power of the mind with the empathic feeling of the heart. The shamanic healer, bodhisattva-like, literally takes over and shares in the sufferings of his patient, dealing with the patient’s conflict both consciously and within his own unconscious. Jung writes, “The doctor, by voluntarily and consciously taking over the psychic sufferings of the patient, exposes himself to the overpowering contents of the unconscious and hence also to their inductive action.” Exposing himself, the doctor becomes very vulnerable, open to being wounded, and because of the inductive, and contagious effects of the contents of the unconscious, susceptible to “catching” (which has the dual meaning of both “being infected by,” as well as “capturing”) what is bothering the patient.
In taking the patient’s process into himself, it is as if the underlying essence of the patient’s process is transferred over to the shamanic healer, who makes it his own. Having internalized the patient’s process, a shaman finds the place within himself that is reflected by the patient’s process. A shamanic healer uses the place within himself which resonates with the patient’s conflict as a springboard into the transpersonal realm. Beyond the merely personal, this is the dimension of the collective unconscious, whose archetypes are animating the patient’s personal conflict. Through journeying in the archetypal realm on the wings of the creative imagination, the shamanic healer finds the deeper part of himself which the patient is embodying and playing out. This is to see through the illusory idea of the separate self, which is to become lucid in the waking dream of life. Recognizing himself in the patient, the natural response to this realization is compassion, which is a nonlocal force of immense healing and whole-ing power not to be discounted.
In taking the patient’s psychic illness into himself, the accomplished shaman moves through it and doesn’t become stuck. He is only able to do this because of his strong connection to the all-pervading, spacious wholeness of the Self, a wholeness that is both transcendent to and untouched by illness. The shamanic healer doesn’t unconsciously identify, and hence become identical with, the psychic conflict that’s triggered within himself, which would be to identify with the very stuff [e.g., the salamander] which is in need of transformation. Because of his living awareness of the ever-presence of the Self, the shamanic healer doesn’t become lost in the patient’s illness, but fully experiences it subjectively, from the inside, and allows it to self-liberate and join the wholeness of the psyche. An accomplished shaman is able to transmute the psychic illness that he has caught from the patient into a curative and creative illness that reveals itself to be a prop, a prompt, and a prod to wake himself up even further. Encoded in the seeming illness is its own medicine. Since therapy is a holistic system, the shaman’s ability to creatively integrate the illness which has gotten activated within him induces a change in the whole system, which then helps the patient.
Due to his more developed sense of awareness and lucidity, the shamanic healer is able to assimilate what Jung calls “the demon of sickness.” To quote Jung, “a sufferer can transmit his disease to a healthy person whose powers then subdue the demon – but not without impairing the well-being of the subduer.” This is the archetype of the shaman/wounded healer “in action,” which involves the healer’s willingness to be vulnerable and experience the patient’s process so deeply that he is open to being wounded in his interaction with the patient. Speaking of this archetypal figure, Jung comments, “it is his own hurt that gives the measure of his power to heal. This, and nothing else, is the meaning of the Greek myth of the wounded physician.”
In a collaborative dreaming process with its own teleology, the doctor invariably gets dreamed up by the patient’s unconscious to incarnate the archetypal figure of wounded healer/shaman, the primordial healer par excellence. A shaman can only be a shaman if he is dreamed up by the field to be one. An accomplished shaman doesn’t personally identify with the role of healer, which would be to inflate and become full of himself, but rather, realizes he is merely being an instrument for something to happen in the field. Just like a night dream compensates the one-sidedness of the dreamer, the archetypal figure of shaman/wounded healer is dreamed up by the analytic third to balance and compensate a one-sidedness in the whole system. This is symbolized by the storied figure of “the rainmaker,” who heals the drought in the outer world by inwardly getting in balance, accessing within himself his own fluidity, his own true nature. This inner realization is mirrored by and “precipitates” into and out of the outer world.
As the shaman subdues the demon of sickness, this in-form-ation and informing influence gets transmitted in no time at all, faster than the twinkling of an eye throughout the whole field of consciousness. In what I call “shamanizing the field,” the shamanic healer takes on the illness of the other and in so doing falls ill himself, and as he recovers his own psychic equilibrium and heals the illness within himself, this nonlocally affects the patient, in addition to the whole universe, as we are all interconnected through the channel of the collective unconscious. Speaking about the doctor in his role as shamanic healer, Jung writes “He is not just working for this particular patient, who may be quite insignificant, but for himself as well and his own soul, and in so doing he is perhaps laying an infinitesimal grain in the scales of humanity’s soul. Small and invisible as this contribution may be, it is yet an opus magnum, for it is accomplished in a sphere but lately visited by the numen, where the whole weight of mankind’s problems has settled.” Each patient is a meaningful part of the universal drama of evolving consciousness.
When the shamanic transference is fully activated, instead of just the patient’s isolated psyche wrestling with the demon of sickness, there are now two psyches, united in their healing intent, tel-empathically having it out with the same demon. These two psyches, inseparably inter-connected through the network of the collective unconscious, nonlocally in-form, flow into, and influence each other, creating a psychic container to hold, metabolize and digest the unconscious content. Their co-operative effort takes away and dis-spells the autonomy and omnipotence of the previously unconscious content, such that it can no longer act itself out unconsciously between or within them. It is like catching “the big one,” a fish from the sea of the unconscious that is too powerful to ‘land” by one’s own self; someone else is needed to help us anchor and assimilate it to the shore of consciousness.
Once the doctor metabolizes, integrates and heals what has gotten stirred up within his own psyche, the therapeutic task becomes how to pass the medicina over to the patient. The doctor administers the healing medicine through the channel of the unconscious via “influence,” which is to say, by the way he carries and embodies the transformation within himself. The influence of the doctor’s healing “substance-less substance” is nonlocally carried and transmitted to the patient through the many subtle capillaries that run through the interactive field between them. The patient is open and receptive to the doctor’s in-forming influence at this level because of the initial bridge created between them by the transference in the first place.
As the doctor metabolizes the demon of sickness, it is as if the patient is seeing the reflection of the mythic “Medusa” (which if looked at directly, would turn the patient to stone, i.e., be traumatic) transformed in the mirror shield of the doctor. Thanks to the doctor facing within himself what the patient cannot yet face within his own psyche, the patient, consciously or unconsciously, recognizes in the living person of the doctor, how someone else (which is actually a reflection of this latent part of himself), has transformed and integrated the very demon of sickness with which the patient has been wrestling. This recognition is a reflection of and nonlocally activates this very process of integration within the patient. Even if the patient doesn’t consciously recognize this process of inward transformation in the doctor, the eye of the unconscious of the patient “sees,” and is affected by, the doctor’s transformation.
Though from one point of view, shamanic transference seems to be a special type of transference, from a deeper point of view, every transference is a form of shamanic transference. Shamanic transference is not a style of transference, or a practice of a particular tradition, but is a natural interchange that is fundamental to every human relationship (please see my article “We are all Shamans-in-Training”). In the depth of any transference, the currency of exchange which genuinely creates psychological health and spiritual wealth is a dialectical relationship based on eros, authentic human relatedness, channeled tel-empathically through the heart. The shamanic doctor of the soul skillfully embodies this way of being in all his relations. Indigenous people call this being a real human being.
To quote Jung, “How can the patient learn to abandon his neurotic subterfuges when he sees the doctor playing hide-and-seek with his own personality, as though unable, for fear of being thought inferior, to drop the professional mask of authority, competence, superior knowledge, etc.?” Patients have a superb sensitivity, and are finely attuned to their doctor’s unconscious, practically looking into the doctor’s soul. Fundamentally speaking, the doctor’s inner game of “hide-and-seek” is to not only hide from his patient, but to hide from himself as well. Speaking of the doctor hiding behind his masks, and methods Jung writes, “All the disguises in which he wraps himself in order to conceal his own personality avail him nothing; sooner or later he will come across a patient who calls his bluff.”
When we see our doctor’s unconscious self-deception and denial, we are literally seeing his or her “mad” part, which, in my case at least, was a recurrent iteration of seeing my parent’s madness, as well as being a reflection of my own. When we “see” the other’s mad part, however, it is important not to solidify him as being totally mad (which would be an expression of our own madness), but rather, to realize that the madness we are seeing in him is only one aspect of the totality of who he is. The realization of the other’s mad part is shocking and de-stabilizing, particularly when it involves an authority figure, as it initiates a process within ourselves of letting go and re-assessing our own image and projections of who and where we thought our true authority was. Due to the traumatic nature of the insight, there is a very real tendency in ourselves to deny and split-off from our perception of the other’s madness, just like many of us did when we saw the abusive and mad part of our parents. If we dissociate from this perception, however, then we are investing and being complicit in our own self-deception, abuse and madness. Fundamentally, abuse has to do with fracturing the connection between the world out there and our inner experience of ourselves, splitting our perception of the world and our place in it. To the extent we deny or distrust our own perceptions is the extent to which we reject our own intrinsic authority as author of our own experience. Oftentimes, seeing the mad part of others in our family system, be it our parents or our supposedly healing physician, has a tragic aspect, in that it forces us to step out of and leave the system. It takes courage and a strong sense of self to stand for our experience and not split-off when our perceptions are not validated by those in authority around us. In not dis-associating from our experience, we are on our way to becoming an independent agent, an autonomous individual standing on our own two feet.
In a sense, the psychiatrist played her role “perfectly” in my dreaming process, as her acting out her unconscious and bungling the transference has helped me to develop in ways that I might not have otherwise. By refusing to play the role my psyche seemingly designed for her and wanted her to step into, the psychiatrist unwittingly played a deeper role in helping me discover my work in dreaming. My interaction with the psychiatrist was one of many examples over a number of years which taught me about the underlying, nonlocal field of consciousness which synchronistically manifests through outer events as well as other people, as it gives shape to and in-forms our lives. I even wrote a book about this insight (please see “The Madness of George W. Bush: A Reflection of our Collective Psychosis”).
Though the situation with the psychiatrist was, from one point of view “perfect,” from another perspective, however, it certainly seemed far less than perfect. By unconsciously abusing her position of power, the psychiatrist was guilty of forfeiting her potential to genuinely help me as a healer. While it has been transformative in a positive way on one level, at the same time, instead of helping me to heal, my work with the psychiatrist became something from which I’ve needed to heal. In our relationship we en-acted something that, even after leaving her, has taken me years to work through in my own head and heart outside of traditional therapy.
I feel like I’ve transformed the situation with the psychiatrist, at least in my own mind, from one of me being the victim to being in a place of self-empowerment. All I can do is express my experience; I can’t be attached to the psychiatrist “getting it,” as my healing is not a function of someone outside of myself getting anything. This would just be a repeat of wanting my parents to get it, which would be a further re-enactment of me giving away my power, once again re-creating my trauma from the inside out and the bottom up. The question becomes, can I be OK with the seeming authority figure, be it my parents, the psychiatrist, the culture at large, or whomever, not getting it, and therefore, seemingly not getting me? This situation offers me the opportunity to connect with and step into my own experience, my own knowing, my own authority, and my own self.
If people tell me that by writing this article I am only working out my unhealed father stuff, as well as my unresolved transference issues with my old psychiatrist, I couldn’t agree more. Finding our genuine voice, our unique mode of creatively expressing our experience of being human, is an intrinsically self-empowering, and self-author-izing gesture. In matters such as my own experience, I am a true authority, as I am “the one” who is experiencing myself. I am fully “certified.”