The Alchemy of the Inner Chorus | Avi Baumann

“The other, unknown side of my soul, will always exist in the other.”

(Jung, psychology of the transference)

The Alchemy of the Inner Chorus

          In considering my formative professional years, and the dialogue I have maintained with various theories and approaches, divergent images reverberate within my mind. I respond to, and address them, as voices, orchestration, and music, coalescing over time into an inner chorus.

                     Recently I have been very interested in our use of instruments and musical phrases: the manner in which we take into ourselves the sounds and voices we hear, and make heard, as therapists.

          What resonates within us at a given moment is truly a riddle; creating inner harmonies and dissonances is a fascinating process.          Throughout our years as therapists, both during and after training, we are exposed to various voices, harmonies, or– alternatively– dissonances, arising from a continuous inner and outer dialogue. Over time, the demands of the constantly constructed self-emerge–professionally as well as personally– and the need for adaptation and precision grows stronger. It is a process of learning, training, and consolidation, creating a sort of inner chorus.

This process, partaking of mystery, of things born in darkness, I call “the alchemy of the inner chorus.” This name is derived from the content and approach in which I have developed, and to which I belong. My focus is on the alchemy through which the chorus of our inner voices is shaped, consolidated, and located: how it is forged in the course of professional development, encompassing the voices of the psychological collective.

          Alchemy is a doctrine that tries to discern the processes undergone by matter and spirit, and their reciprocal relationships. It considers such matters as how a mixture of materials and compounds is made, how materials “mate” with each other, how something new is born, what gets contaminated in this mixture, what must undergo a special process of cleansing with time. It also contemplates what new thing may be born–as valuable as gold– giving us a full, wise, and pure amalgam of the self. In our context, the therapeutic act is the alchemical process; we work with the various materials arising in therapy, the metamorphoses these materials undergo while being processed, and their influences on each other. This material, while that of the patient, is also that of the therapist; a shared material is formed between the two.

          In the emotional process of therapy, we try to perfect, to extract from the spirit, the feeling and meaning of things imprisoned too much within it. For example, the spirit may be imprisoned in the overly concrete, or in the body, or in the ego. It is thus separated from the self, or–to use Jungian language– in one of our “feeling tone complexes”. We reconstruct and integrate elements from our inner and subjective world with the dialogues created with others; this also applies to relations resulting from the training and therapy we undergo and perform.

I refer to the dialogue between the therapist and the patient, which–while not symmetrical– is reciprocal; this is a kind of psychology of two, in which by means of a relational approach, a new spirit is created. In parallel, there is an inner psychological coupling of the conscious and the unconscious, “the inner pair,” together these give birth to a third– in the soul of the patient, in the soul of the therapist, and between both partners in the process. Within the therapist, I refer to the dialogue among his or her inner parts; what is created between the ego, persona, and self. The therapeutic self is parallel to our general self: a structure of parts that have undergone integration over time, created and perfected by years of work, training, personal therapy, and, of course, life itself.

          According to Jung, the concept of the self relates to the parts within which are not yet known to us: parts of our shadow, our complexes, and images of the mother and father– which are parallel to inner objects. Jung holds that the self includes both what is known to us and what is not conscious; over time, the relations and development of the two will be clarified. Consequently, consolidation of the therapist within me through connection with my unconscious, is a necessary stage, leading to both expansion and creativity. Of course, inclusion of our creativity within therapy is also necessary. The therapy that we undergo, and that which we give to others, is very significant; it heals the rifts, and helps the consciousness to flourish. There, in that place, one's own self emerges and demands attention, every time in a different way, just as every time we ourselves are different. We may be guides, meeting patients on the path toward their self – and even serving as their alter-egos – but we are always on our own journey, dealing with our own self-formation. Hence, Jung believes, reciprocity and authentic relations are central to accelerating the process.

          The process which we undergo as therapists in relation to theory, is comparable to the development of the spirit in Nietzsche's Thus Spake Zarathustra. There he says: “Three metamorphoses of the spirit do I designate to you: how the spirit becomes a camel [which bears its burden quietly and with devotion – we submit to theory], the camel a lion [which develops its own willpower – we strengthen ourselves with theory and versus it], and the lion at last a child [a creative child that renews itself and discovers its own things].” At first we attach ourselves to theory, to an approach, bear it with pride, obey it and apply it; but over time it becomes a kind of burden. Afterward we discover strength and opinions of our own, beyond the theory, and we fight with it, no longer acting in obedience. Ultimately we create something new and fresh of our own.

          Study, training, the public career, and the private path, bring us gradually to the search for the non-collective approach; we want the exception to the rule, which is frightening at first, and thus we also enter into an obligation that is threatening. The Jungian approach was, for me in my path as a psychologist, like leaving a secure place and going into strangeness; on a solitary path–unconventional, alien, and exceptional. Later I came to “be” within the approach, learning, internalizing, and swimming in it. Over time I tried to understand what was there, on the path that I was seeking; why be Jungian, and how Jungian should I be?

          Now I'll go back a little: like many members of my generation, I began my path as a therapist before I myself underwent therapy. Very diligently and attentively, I studied the ordinary way of understanding the psyche and the processes of treatment. My internship and specialization were in relatively conventional places, with a clear and unchallenged psychoanalytical line, especially in the" Ilan" child clinic in Jerusalem.   I also worked in a place that was open and quite investigative– the psychiatric department of Hadassah, in the context of a general hospital. Already at the start, there were things that my third, attentive, intuitive ear heard as dissonant notes, inexact and sometimes even incorrect. For example, central emphasis was placed on sexuality and on the oedipal complex in childhood. And, in consonance with what the relationists see, I was very disturbed by narrowing the vision in the direction of instincts, rather than relationships. The therapeutic system-setting, which stood for a distant position–refraining, disengaged, uninfluenced, observing the patient in the process from an objective scientific distance– also upset me. I already sensed then how central the true connection between therapist and patient was.

          The reductive and non-symbolic relationship between the therapist and the patient also disturbed me greatly, in the sense that it is always transference of the child to the parent, and not what happens between two people. Furthermore, I sometimes found it strange that the relation to the work of the patient was always out of the understanding that it is a reconstruction of the past, and that on the concrete and interpretative level the causes were always in the past. I was disturbed by the detached interpretation, à la Melanie Klein; I objected, as well, to the irrelevance of the visible dream, for example, as opposed to the hidden dream. My work deciphering a code, as a detective, and not as an active partner in therapeutic togetherness, also did not seem right to me. I felt the artificiality, the lack of truthfulness, in an experience that opposed my intuition. And all this was just before beginning my studies at the Psychoanalytic Institute in Jerusalem.

          I confess that I adapted myself to the language of my teachers; I drew out interpretations, I brought the supervisors what they wanted to hear, and not what they didn't want to hear. And I also must confess that out of sight of my first supervisor, Ita Brotskus, I actually did things that I believed in.

When I began my therapy, I was exposed to the Jungian analytic approach, and a world was open before me that I had not found previously– not even in the approaches that began to take shape such as that of Winnicott and Kohut. I was only exposed to the relational approach later, in the mid-1990s. I was pleased and enthusiastic, but also frustrated: “What, don't they know Jung?”

          To sum up, until then, I felt I was learning the profession, the theories, the almost magical interpretation, the correct relationship, the desired distance, the constructed persona, the position of the analyzing psychologist; but despite the investment, the empathy, and the concern, I sometimes felt inauthentic. My work was certainly not in harmony with many of the voices and sounds that today are part of my inner chorus. There was discord then, silencing–like a constructed ego that functions with acquired skills, but mute, and without a directing inner self.

          Again, I should point out that getting to Jung took place through several channels working simultaneously, or– in Jungian terms– through synchronicity. In those years (1981-1985) I was working on my doctorate, and the subject of my dissertation was “The Entry into Parenthood as a Developmental Stage,” from the approach of life-span development.

By then I believed that the personality develops throughout life, out of the totality of experiences that a person undergoes, including interpersonal connections, conjugal relations, parenthood, and others.

In addition to my increasing belief in the curative and transformational power of systems of relationships, I also became aware of the power of the human archetypes dealing with connections: mother-child, parent-child, man-woman, therapist-patient, and friend-friend. A person develops through the awakening and animation of the archetypes, conjoined to internalized objects, with the influence of external human experiences.

At that time, I began to understand that I was in a conjugal relationship, I was a parent to my children, I was a supervisor, I was a therapist in my treatments, and I was in inner dialogue with my parents. In all these connections I was undergoing a process; the consolidation and distillation of my own self.

I understood that the act of dialogical reciprocity, both interpersonal and internal, had become extremely central for me in psychic development. I also began to understand that relationships, no matter which, resonate in different places, and with different voices. They emanate from multiple directions, embodiments, and depths, arising from internalizations, inner objects, and parts of the self-such as the shadow, and the anima.

Today it is clear to me that there were also voices from the inner, archetypal stratum; they had not been repressed, but were simply unknown or unconscious. That stratum was present, and could be awakened at any moment, by every experience.

I understood the power of the stratum of the psyche connected to my personhood: the objective stratum of the soul, and its primary internal patterns. This can be animated by powerful experiences, personal and non-personal stories, events and situations in the world, as well as complexes of an intrinsically personal and cultural nature.

Culture, mythology, religious experience, the content we all share, the collective unconscious– what we call cultural amplifications– began to interest me. In addition, I recognized that what is common between myself and my partner, and myself and my patient (in the empowering therapeutic connection) is the personhood of human beings, all of whom incorporate what Neumann calls the primal man. (אדם קדמון,)

With time I understood that central to all these dialogues, occurring simultaneously in many directions and on many strata, was the system of relations in which I participated. I recognized that the two central motivations beyond instinct are the human connection, and the unique psychic development outside the self. The dialogue that interests me is not via analysis and concentration on the patient's childhood, and is not necessarily reached through the ordinary analytical path. I needed to depart from the accepted, normative path, in which I was so rooted, although it was not truly myself.

          At first, the Jungian training that I chose was both strange and ambivalent. It was a new methodology of observation and research, to deal with the unconscious as a common foundation containing archetypal patterns, which take personal form through the family, society, and culture.

Jung was also European, deeply influenced by Christianity, and his images and examples were very Christian; I had to constantly remind myself that these were the private instances of his culture and himself.

During my transition to the Jungian approach, I feared deviating from the mainstream; I felt as if I were “amid the alien corn”, participating in an act of betrayal. Moreover, the world–and the accepted psychoanalytic bastion– resented Jung, and the generational transition left its mark on the professional milieu.

The inner conflict, wondering what was suitable or not suitable to do, what was accepted and what was not, how far to deviate or whether to accept deviation as an autonomous part of myself, was very disturbing.

          Only deep entry into Jung's approach helped me to understand why this path, in particular, was necessary for my individuation.

The basic belief was that a person seeks to become his or her self, and, that paradoxically, this can only be done through dialogue with the other. This helped me understand myself, and the process of leaving my– our– collective. More and more I knew that the therapist who becomes himself with time, treats patients from the totality of what he has acquired in his training, and with all that is built into him from the start. But also incorporated in this must be all that is born from the many encounters with teachers and supervisors, patients, culture and society. The more mature the therapist, the more he will treat patients from a place created by his interactions with the world; the more he works from there, the more his self and his personality will become his central tool.

          I recognized that in our collective society, one that pressures us to reflect the consensus, to voice the accepted, the process of individuation necessary for developing into oneself, is central– both for me as a person, and for the patient.

This approach, and its context of individuation, raised many questions about my choice of being a therapist. Why had I become a therapist from the start, particularly after fighting in the Yom Kippur war?  Whom did I unconsciously treat as a child, and who am I treating today, as a second generation to the survivors, after being freed from treating my parents? From what psychic material am I built, what else influenced me, how much, and what was authentic to myself?  I questioned to what degree I treat patients through my ego and persona, rather than from the unconscious shadow beyond the inner objects. Do the anima – the feminine aspects – or the animus – the masculine aspects – participate in this? How are they influenced by objects, and when do they contain elements of my more basic self? , And, finally, how is the whole consolidated into my therapist self?

          Twenty years ago I lectured at the Goren Institute in Tel Aviv, during a special symposium on the voice of the therapist as expressed within different approaches. At the time I still felt like Nietzsche's camel– slightly swallowed up by the theory and the approach, and not speaking in my own true voice. It took me another twenty years to make my own voice heard, or to be able to conduct the voices of my inner chorus.

Nevertheless, in hearing myself, and in the dialogue with others, I began to understand some things, such as the spiritual and ideological influences of the home and the family in which I grew up, as well as the ideology of working the soil–which had a more spiritual motivation than the work itself. The soil was beyond the soil, for my parents; it was also a new Mother Earth, after their trauma. I recognized that settlement, the symbolic earth that my parents bequeathed to me, also imbued my psychology. Consequently, I also accepted the need for individuation and breaking free of the conventional voices crushing my Self.

I rebelled against the distant and detached European approach, and confirmed the importance of a real connection in therapy. I would add that, like the relation with patients, developing dialogue–which Jung regarded as central for therapy– is also very important to me.  Jung believed thaיונגt through the therapeutic relationship, the therapist and the patient shared a process, and were immersed together in what he called “the alchemical bath”.  Therapy is a shared creation; the therapist is sometimes the wounded healer, healing from within his own wound.

All of this will influence the way I treat patients in the future. Moreover, I have discovered that certain things are central to the approach. These include recognizing the intersubjective uniqueness of every therapy: maintaining integrity and openness toward the patient as a therapist: cultivating observation and investigation of relations: nurturing the love within therapy: and sustaining the faith that the self is revealed and born– within and through– relations. I also want to note that according to Jung, there is a function in the psyche and in therapy, which he calls “transcendent-function”. Through this technique, when the conscious and the unconscious, or the I and the you (the other)  are in dialogue, it is possible to create a new and greater third entity. These are the fruits borne of openness, contemplation, and selfhood.

          Even though I am almost seventy, and supposedly formed, my dialogue with other approaches continues; now, in particular, it is necessary to be receptive and open to others, as a source of further development. How do others see relations within the therapeutic system? Making room for different views of this relationship may be transformative. In what do they believe? What do they name the things    that I see in a different language? What force acts above and beyond the basic therapeutic process? Is it only relational or, as Jung postulated, does the archetypal self-contribute to the relationship? As in all archetypal patterns, is faith the daughter of love? Does the self, which guides both the process and the relationships, metamorphose into a component of transference?

For example, I sometimes treat patients as the mother, sometimes as the father, sometimes as the other. Or, I may direct the process as a projection of the shadow, arousing the ascendency of either the (feminine) anima, or the (masculine) animus. What is clear is that even within the internal dialogue of the Jungian approach itself, I began to see my own personal path. What do I add that is unique or different within "Jungianism"? How is my individuation shaped by the approach?

          On the matter of relationships, I perceived from my exposure to Franz Rosenzweig that love in therapy, giving to the other, and self-revelation, contribute to my redemption.

          I better comprehend the effort and ability to see the uniqueness of every other person, and to help consolidate it, knowing this to be my mission as a partner in the process. I also appreciate more and more the conception of the plurality of the Self, undergoing continual metamorphoses in the course of its evolution. Following our development through childhood, youth, and young adulthood, through the practice of therapy, and our processes as therapists, this understanding became part of me.

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