There are many approaches to treating emotional distress. Psychotherapists may utilize one or more of these approaches, depending on the individual. For example, the psychodynamic approaches explore the unconscious and its influence on behavior and development of personality. Cognitive behavioral approaches hold that emotional disturbances are caused by how we interpret and think about situations and events. Family systems therapy believes that symptoms of emotional distress are really expressions of family dysfunctions.
Individuals experiencing relationship problems, job dissatisfaction, bereavement, depression, anxiety and many other forms of distress may benefit from one or more of these psychotherapeutic approaches. However, there are also individuals for whom psychotherapy isn’t enough: they seek an approach that gives them a deeper and more satisfying understanding of themselves. Psychoanalysis is the deepest and most intensive form of psychotherapy.
The Goal of Analysis
Like psychotherapy, Jungian analysis is concerned with easing suffering and clarifying emotional confusion. However, the goal of analytic work is not simply solving problems or coping with psychological crisis. Analysis intends to help individuals develop a deeper understanding and acceptance of themselves and to help people become mature, well-functioning human beings with a renewed sense of their own individual path in life – in effect to become the best “me” possible. The process involves not only the healing of psychic wounds, but the uncovering of the unconscious blocks that prevent emotional growth and the realization of creative potential. The aim is not perfection but wholeness. Although most people enter analysis because of a serious dissatisfaction with some aspect of their lives, many people who enter analysis are basically healthy individuals who desire to lead richer lives by “going deeper” into themselves to find life’s greater meaning. Analysis is about becoming conscious of who you are by establishing a dialogue with your unconscious mind. This dialogue takes place through an interaction with your dreams, fantasies, bodily sensations, and feelings. When the soil of one’s unconscious life is loosened, beneficial changes often begin to unfold. Therefore, analysis is a kind of “inner work,” sometimes more like a spiritual path than psychological treatment.
Jungian analysis emphasizes the importance of unconscious influences on one’s current emotional state that interfere with living a full and satisfying life. Analysis is a joint effort by two people to try to understand the impact of these unconscious influences on behavior, relationships, and feelings. Because these forces are unconscious, the advice of friends or family, the reading of self-help books, or even the most determined exertion of willpower, often fails to provide relief. The role of the analyst is to help the client understand himself or herself, especially the unrecognized or unacknowledged aspects of personality.
About Jung and Analytical Psychology
Analytical or Jungian psychology is based upon the ideas of Dr. Carl Gustav Jung, a Swiss psychiatrist (1875-1961). Jung had a working relationship with Freud from 1906-1913 and was the first elected President of the International Psychoanalytic Association. Their collaboration ended when Jung developed psychological theories that departed from Freud’s view.
Jung agreed with Freud about the basic concepts of psychology. However, Jung’s emphasis was different: Jung saw the unconscious as complementary to and communicating with consciousness, rather than as a mere repository of repressed experience. Jung believed that analysis or psychotherapy should be a dialogue between two people, working together to alleviate the client’s psychic condition through a process of discovering and integrating the unconscious aspects of the personality.
Disagreeing with Freud, Jung felt that we had many motivations other than the sexual drive, and that one of these motivations was actually for the process of psychological growth. Jung’s idea was that we develop symptoms when we fail to integrate the many potential aspects of our personality. Failure to do this is often what causes the psychological problems that bring us into therapy. If we don’t understand these deeper causes, the problems are likely to resurface in other ways, such as relationship problems or emotional blocks.
The focus in Jungian analysis is less on a reductive understanding (for instance, how our parents’ shortcomings led to our difficulties), and more on a prospectiveunderstanding: What are we trying unconsciously to work out through our problems? It is certainly important to understand how the deficits or trauma of our history affect us, but it is just as important to understand our inner need to grow into the unique person we potentially are.
The basic goal and attitude of Jungian analysis is to build an ongoing relationship with the unconscious. Rather than seeing it merely as the repository of repressed memories, Jung viewed the unconscious as a source of direction and healing. At the same time, this unconscious also contains our dark side, which is important to face directly and come to terms with.
One of the ways that Jungians actually do this is by working with symbols—images that come up in dreams, imagination, creative projects, and the events of our lives. Symbols carry enormous energy because they connect unconscious and conscious layers of the mind, and they represent the universal, human developmental processes that Jung called archetypes. Recognizing these patterns of experience can help us to facilitate our growth as humans.
You may wish to use the links on this website to read more about Jung and a Jungian approach to psychotherapy.
What happens in analysis?
Jungian analysis is a highly individualized process that relies on the patient’s innate potential for growth, and the analytic setting is specifically designed to encourage exploration of the deeper areas of the mind. Unlike some other therapies, the analyst doesn’t set the agenda for the sessions and doesn’t decide which issues the client is supposed to discuss. Clients are encouraged to speak freely about whatever is on their mind without censoring their thoughts or feelings. For example, patients might speak about dreams, fantasies, important daily events, significant interactions, feeling about themselves, events from the past, or feelings about the analyst. The patient and analyst work together to understand the client’s reactions to these experiences. As the client speaks, hints of the unconscious sources of current difficulties begin to make themselves clear and important patterns of meaning gradually emerge. Contrary to popular impression, analysis is not preoccupied with the past. Memories from earlier parts of one’s life are only used to understand one’s reactions to the present moment. This integration of the past and the present is part of the holistic growth associated with Jungian analysis.
In analysis the patient-analyst relationship is an important part of the treatment. Sometimes people are nervous about going to see an analyst because they feel they will reveal aspects of themselves that feel very private, but the analytic relationship allows this to take place in an atmosphere of emerging trust; an atmosphere in which difficult, painful experiences can be safely explored and understood. The therapeutic relationship provides a unique opportunity to understand one’s emotional reactions by exploring the feelings that come up in the therapeutic partnership. Through this exploration the patient becomes more aware of how unconscious patterns influence interpersonal relationships. Continuity in treatment is essential to developing the therapeutic relationship required for this kind of self-exploration. Typically the client and analyst meet on a weekly basis. Occasionally, more frequent sessions are helpful. When this is the case, people often have the impression that coming more frequently means they are more “sick.” However, this is not the case. When mutually agreed upon, the higher frequency of sessions is used to “intensify” the experience of analysis and allow the client to delve deeper into his or her emotional life.
How long will the analysis last?
Analysis is a prologued process. However, it is very difficult to say at the outset how long an analysis may last as this will relate uniquely to the individual and his or her particular needs and aims. It is a process that develops at its own pace. Sometimes what may seem like a limited difficulty may turn out have wider implications – for example, difficulties following a bereavement may bring up wider issues about loss and relationships.