Zürich. Küsnacht. Jung-Institut. Two and a bit out of three weeks.
I do seem to be emotionally volatile while I'm here... anxiety over my ability to become an analyst, excitement over new ideas – or, as you'll see, anger over new ideas – plumbing unexpected depths...
Well, the past week was a rough one.
Both the diagnosis of the loss of meaning and the idea of the dire need of meaning (which come nicely together in Jung's statement, we “cannot even get it into our heads that no myth will come to our aid although we have such urgent need of one”) are nothing new.
I suppose it started with the assignment to read a famous article by radical post-Jungian Wolfgang Giegerich. Terrifically intelligent, ruthlessly precise – an obvious background in German philosophers. (In fact, I kept thinking that some points would be more easily shown using my favorite French post-structuralists, but never mind.)
Unfortunately, Giegerich rips away a lot of hope and imagination – and his arguments aren't bulletproof; in fact they're a bit like Sartre, or like some modern atheistic arguments that say, Look, you can't see anything, so it's not there. Arguments that make me tired – I can't say that I believe in anything very definite, but I'm certainly not such a fool as to strenuously disbelieve in things.
Then Philip Kime, whom I like a lot, gave a controversial knife-edge precise seminar on redefining – no: more accurately defining – the Shadow. But I won't go into detail on that one, as he's still working on it for a summer presentation.
So: a lot of highly intellectual stuff, some of which made me frankly furious.
[My notes:] With a depressed person, the most dangerous point is when they feel a bit better – then they may have the energy to do violence...
Then Kim Arndt, who graduated from the Institute last summer, gave a seminar on suicide. And it was very well done – we were all proud of her, in a frankly rather possessive way (One Of Us!). But the topic is of course dark – and the depths of the discussion and material went further than I really expected...
because, of course, although I style myself as familiar with death after years of the AIDS crisis, I'm fairly at a loss with suicide. Even the one last month in my own city, by one of the HIV patients who participates in my group. He hung himself when his benefits were ended....
[My notes:] Psychotics become virtually inaccessible to psychic growth or transformation. Profound lack of humanity opposed to powerful, seductive forces... and very skilled at becoming manipulative and controlling/destructive of others.
Then Ronnie Landau, a lively, energetic analyst from Philadelphia, spoke about psychotics. For eight hours. Brilliant, frankly – but, as you can imagine, I started to lose it a bit – internally at least.
Unexpectedly for me, although she mentioned films like Silence of the Lambs, etc., her actual choice of scenes to show toward the end of a long day were all from Tilda Swinton's We Have to Talk About Kevin – which I didn't know at all. Disturbing quality, messed-up mother-child relationship, yes that much is clear... but the climactic act of violence is presented in fantastic/allusive form, so that you have to figure out what really happened. Hardly Silence of the Lambs. Or even a Saw advertisement on the side of a bus – let alone Hellraiser, which my first analyst thought was interesting back in the late 1980s – I saw approximately thirty seconds of it, and that was enough to regret ever having heard of the thing.
But, despite the obliqueness and lack of gore, Kevin is a film with an intensely disturbing impact, because of the acting and the writing – I know because unfortunately I came back to this apartment late at night and watched large parts of it... which was a Bad Idea.
[My notes:] Pictures of shipwrecks... a ship is a container, a vessel. Or an oven: container, heat – the motherly power to sustain, to bear, gets lost – failure means a container breaks, loses security.
That day I'd also had a first supervision with Robert Hinshaw, which had a calming, reassuring effect. Then Renate Daniel gave a seminar on failure... failure in the patient, failure with the patient. You can see where I'm going with this. So, on Friday, when Kim gave another seminar on ceremonies, I was thinking of the dark legends of my own life, rather more than the topic I'm afraid.
That evening, the kindly secretary for the Institute passed me in the hallway and said: I'm very sorry to tell you this, but... and it turns out there is a major problem with one of the qualifiers for my promotion to the second half of the training, that extends back for a year.
Hmm. At first, surprise, exasperation – then I started to get distinctly angry, disoriented. Rather bad timing, on the evening of the student party... and the weight of the whole week seemed to be crashing down on my head.
Within 20 days of the decision in question an appeal must be submitted, in writing, with the Curatorium. This time frame is not negotiable. The written appeal is to state clearly why an appeal is sought and why a reversal of the Selection Committee‘s decision is requested.
Show up at the pizza parlor where the party is, some students there, others still in one last seminar. Interiorly twanging like a string, sort of planning on acting normally, well that's not really going to work is it. Two students approach and sit down to talk – I can't deal with it, and grab my coat and stalk out to the parking lot.
I am, at this point, (projectively) worried that this is the beginning of another general failure in my life – this won't be the last disaster, it will all go wrong, I'll never graduate. I call Roberto, who I know is skipping the party (he'd had a long day), and is an experienced psychiatrist... yeah, okay, a child psychiatrist, but then I wasn't exactly at my most adult. I start the call saying I'll cancel Saturday's colloquium and he shouldn't pick me up in the morning; but about five minutes on the phone and he talks me down, so I go back inside.
Still acting, frankly, but more calmly... I tell the three people who sit with me, including my dear Annick, why I am keyed up. In slightly excruciating detail... but they are with me, and the two glasses of wine help.
There isn't much point in a blow-by-blow of the remaining.
Saturday: all-day colloquium, where I am the only non-psychiatrist among four people – raclette for lunch, I take the dog for a walk while Dr Ribi naps, things go well. But I'm coughing a lot...
Sunday, Monday: The Flu. Is it possible that I was more susceptible because of my state of mind? Ah well, in any case I got it, as did some of the students. Nasty, but fortunately of short-ish duration.
And somewhere in two days of tossing and turning, getting up every other hour convinced that the night must be over by now, a lot of the above falls away...
An e-mail from the Institute: we can partly resolve the problem with your qualification, and won't put you back in the program, though I still have to make a major change. Whew. So: bad, but not too bad.
I'm a bit fragile but no longer infectious – I think – and so shower, go out to buy cold medications, paracetamol, cough drops, tissues, any damned thing I can find really. Teetering slightly on my feet, not completely clear-headed, so perhaps not utterly past the fever...
and get on the train for an hour and a half to see the magnificent Verena Kast, for a first meeting with her as my supervisor.
No details here, as I'm tired, but it was – professional, heartening. She mentioned a lot of things I needed to do, but seemed to think the gist was all right, that I had it in me to do this work – and she was actually pleased to see me.
So: late Tuesday night, laundry's nearly done, then bed. Tomorrow more classes. And that sense of having been through the wringer is almost a pleasure, now....