Before I leave Switzerland behind – the next to last night in Küsnacht, some people who were about to graduate (= who have now graduated) from the Jung-Institut told us about their dissertation topics.
I took substantial notes on at least four, because frankly – and yes, I did indeed say this out loud afterwards – they were absolutely fucking brilliant. (Cf. some psychology article I saw a few weeks ago said that people who swear a lot are often regarded as more honest – my students must think I never, ever lie).
Jerome was looking at a balance point between introversion and extroversion, experimenting with the idea that when we can locate that point, complexes have reduced energy and libido returns – which sounds as though it cross-connects Buddhist and Taoist ideas among others; and he was actually coming up with exercises to help do this. Johann was trying to work out a basis for a Jungian sociology – seeing what narcissism might mean in society, connecting Freud and Jung through dreams that impact a social group, etc. – a fairly big, post-Adornian idea to my ears.
Cheryl and Barbara both had remarkable ideas that seemed extraordinarily connected with deep suffering in groups of people that are often ignored. Cheryl had been working with a group of diabetes patients, doing personal analysis with them and looking at the tension of their medical regimes and life expectancies – as she put it: people who have decisions to make every day that could directly lead to their deaths, or not. And she obviously managed this with a huge amount of care, on several levels simultaneously, and with a real impact on their lives.
okay well: Barbara has of course been working with international victims of torture, people who have fled to Geneva for one reason or another related to the UN, for some years. She had originally been planning to write about the archetype of time – and, as you might imagine, finally realized the topic was far too big. So, she started thinking about time as it is experienced by her patients –
time, over months of torture, when you don't have any reason to think you will survive. Because when people are tortured or raped, other people's time is imposed on them – and then there is the timeless time of sheer pain or suffering, when everything floats outside itself, and the veil of consciousness seems to lift. (Like an involuntary, evil version of what Jerome is looking for, above.)
Even in something as basic as keeping to a strict Swiss schedule for therapy sessions – with some of her patients, the normal rules about time need to be thrown out the window. More stress for the therapist, but there is just no other way to hold onto the patient's abject memories of terror and disorientation: if they have had time dictated to them in this hideous fashion, the therapist cannot become yet another person who controls their time.
I suppose I was especially surprised at the depth and intensity of some of these ideas: but perhaps I shouldn't be – these people are distinctly older, more experienced, than most of my postgraduates, and if they can work on areas that seem both more important and more difficult than those of many academic students, perhaps that simply makes sense.
All pretty amazing... and somehow it redirects some of my thinking: rather than looking at big Jungian theories and how or where they work – isn't there extraordinary power in focusing on the immediate change that you can make in something – something that doesn't really need a theory: some transformation or movement that happens right here, right now?...