Jung At Heart blog

Baby It’s Cold Outside

It is a snowy day here in Maine. In the northern part of the state they had record lows — one town was at -24F this morning and that is air temperature, not wind chills. Right now it is above zero at a not exactly balmy 24F and big fluffy snowflakes are floating about.

Inside I look at this and suddenly it doesn’t seem so wintery!


Therapeutic Space

Last summer I had to make some changes in my office. So that occasioned some serious thought about therapeutic space.  In the process, I encountered some of the writing of Yi-Fu Tuan, a geographer. Tuan wrote a very interesting little book, Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience in which he muses about how people think about space and place, home and neighborhood. One of his thoughts is that space is what we encounter when we are someplace new and unfamiliar and it becomes place as we learn its features and landmarks. This leads me to contemplate the fact that every time a new patient comes to see me, not only is the patient is a space which is not yet place, but so am I, because, though the physical features of the room are the same from patient to patient, the addition of a new person changes the space. As we begin the process of coming to know each other, we are each creating place, place which contains the other.

And I am pondering who the therapy space is for -- the patient or the therapist? Or both?

Suddenly cool!

The NY Times seems to have discovered that older women are more than cute little old ladies. Last Monday they published a review of Mary Pipher’s new book, Women Rowing North: Navigating Life’s Currents and Flourishing As We Age and what’s not to like, for us older women anyway, with the headline for the review — 70 and Female Is the New Cool! I purchased the book that very day. And I recommend it to any woman over 60.

If after reading the review, you, like me, feel moved to read it and would like to be able to discuss it with a group of women, let me know. 

Aging: Task 3

Defining Life Realistically - the third of Jung’s tasks of aging.

I hope that you are beginning to see how these tasks flow together. All involve looking at the life we have lived so far — our regrets and triumphs sorrows and delights. And doing so without judging ourselves, which can be the hardest part. The only way to get to where we are now is the route that we took. This is the time for making peace with ourselves and our biography. We cannot start over again as perhaps we might wish. Instead we need to find acceptance.

“Thoroughly unprepared, we take the step into the afternoon of life. Worse still, we take this step with the false presupposition that our truths and our ideals will serve us as hitherto. But we cannot live the afternoon of life according to the program of life’s morning, for what was great in the morning will be little at evening and what in the morning was true, at evening will have become a lie.” C.G. Jung

Jung on Aging

Carl Jung, at 85 yrs.,reflecting on the aging process:

“Old age is only half as funny as one is inclined to think.

It is at all events the gradual breaking down of the bodily machine, with which foolishness identifies as ourselves.

It is indeed a major effort– the magnum opus in fact– to escape in time from the narrowness of its embrace and to liberate our mind to the vision of the immensity of the world, of which we form an infinitesimal part.

In spite of the enormity of our scientific cognition we are yet hardly at the bottom of the ladder, but we are at least so far that we are able to recognize the smallness of our knowledge.

The older I grow the more impressed I am by the frailty and uncertainty of our understanding, and all the more I take recourse to the simplicity of immediate experience so as not to lose contact with the essentials, namely the dominants which rule human existence throughout the millenniums.“ (C.G.Jung Letters 2. 1951-1961. p.580)

Perfection or completion?

Every day of 2008 I took a photograph first thing every morning out my dining room window.  I didn't know why and I didn't know if I had the discipline to follow through every day for a year - after all I started Bonnie Craig’s 21 day shape-up program at least 5 times and never got past day 8 (and never did the whole thing).  But something in me knew it was an important undertaking for me and so, day by day, every day, I took my picture.

I made myself be content with the pictures as they came out, altering them only to saturate the color a bit to compensate for the compression of the jpeg format. I was frustrated sometimes by what I didn't know about - how to better capture the light and by the inevitable smudge on the window on the days I couldn't open it to take the picture. 

As I reflect on the project this from Jung comes to mind:

"If a woman strives for perfection she forgets the complementary role of completeness, which, though imperfect by itself, forms the necessary counterpart to perfection. For, just as completeness is always imperfect, so perfection is always incomplete, and therefore a final state which is hopelessly sterile...the imperfectum carries within it the seeds of its own improvement. Perfectionism always ends in a blind alley, while completeness by itself lacks selective values." (C.G.Jung, CW 11, para. 620)

Aging: Some points to ponder

What to call this period? Today I am 72. I am not middle aged. I am not old old either. Yet I am different from when I was in my 50s or 60s. I have this keen sense about the onrushing end, that I have perhaps 15 years or so, and not likely more, of active life ahead. That changes things. I see myself well  within the last quarter of my life. But who knows? That is one of the issues of this stage.

Some factors I reflect on --

* Men continue to be able to sire children into old age; for women, menopause marks the end of reproduction -- how does this affect the last quarter? 

*There are so few places to see bodies showing age, other than in our own mirrors. Media images of older women see absence of signs of aging as success, presence as something to be clucked over. "You look so young" is a compliment, as if to look old were a mark of failure. Why should I not look my age?

*We are different at this age than our mothers were. At 72, though she would live another 8 years, my mother was older than I am now. Her health was poorer; her life less active.

Aging: Task 2

Task #2 of Jung’s 7 tasks of old age is Life Review. Life Review involves looking back over the course of one’s life, at the good things and the bad and everything in between. It is, as someone once told, coming to terms with one’s own biography, which then makes way for embracing what is to come.

Sit with this for a while. Where are you with reviewing your life, at taking on this task? How are you doing it? Are there some parts of your life you avoid looking at?

In this next week I will offer you some more structured ways to work on your life review. For now, you might write in your journal about it. As always, I love to hear from you in the comment section.

Tools for the journey

It is one thing to suggest that the first task of aging is to accept that we are old or getting old and that death is the inevitable conclusion of this stage of life, it is another to seriously reflect on this task, and all of the tasks we will explore. We need tools to help take us down inside ourselves, down inside where the chatter and distractions of daily life fade to a mere quiet hum. So here are 2 tools to facilitate this inward-turning, more to come later:

Quiet: How many of us have the television or radio or music on all the time — not because we are watching or listening, but to provide background sound so that we don’t feel alone? Today, try giving yourself the gift of quiet. Sit and listen. Listen to yourself. You might want to write what you hear when you feel ready.

Journal WritingIf you don’t keep a journal, try it. Lots of people like bullet journaling but it is more directed than what I am suggesting. I suggest finding a blank book, lined or unlined according to your preference, but one which appeals to you, which is attractive enough to make you want to use it. I use unlined paper because then the lines do not dictate the size of my writing so I am freer to scrawl in bold letters or write teeny tiny ones. But the choice is yours. Try it. Write every day for three weeks or so. Write what you feel. What you think. Your dreams. Your wishes. What you are grateful for. What you want. Write for as long as you want. Grammar and spelling don’t count. Just write.

Fat: Guidelines for Therapists

A note on nomenclature: I deliberately use the term “fat” not “obese”. In groups of people who have been marginalised on the basis of race or sexual orientation, an important part of claiming agency is declaring the right to choose what members call themselves. Similarly it is the practice in the fat community to reclaim the term “fat” from the pool of epithets directed against us, as segments of the gay community have reclaimed “queer”. Therefore in what follows, I use “fat” rather than “obese” except when quoting or referring to research reports.

I have been able to locate three sets of guidelines for therapists when dealing with patients with size issues -- one published in the American Psychological Association's Monitor, one by NAAFA, and the last by Marion Woodman. So let's look at the first two. 

From the APA Monitor, a brief set of guidelines for therapists interested in being "size friendly" -- it's a short piece and seems to have been little noticed, though it was published in January 2004. Here are the guidelines:

© Cheryl Fuller, 2018. All  rights reserved.