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Jung and the "Shadow"

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I think I mentioned in some of the other posts that I am seeing a new trauma specialist for PTSD.

She wants to start talking about Jung and the "Shadow" and I know there have been mentions about Jung here on the forum who I had never heard of till some threads were recently posted.

Can anyone tell me if they have any thoughts or experiences with Jung and the "shadow"

Thanks :(

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Did you follow this thread from 'spiritual emergency' about Jung's ideas about the Shadow? It might be a good place to start, both because of her extensive references to other material and because of the discussion that went on.

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Guest ASchwartz

Hi Linda,

Jung, along with Freud, was one of the great psychoanaysts of all time. However, much of their stuff, both of them, is greatly outdated.

In my opinion, and others are free to disagree, PTSD is a very specific category of behavioral disorder and needs to be treated both with medication and cognitive behavioral therapy as well as meditation, yoga and deep relaxation techniques.

What do all of you think of my opinion in terms of Linda??


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I am sadly burning the midnight oil studying for exams otherwise I would have loved to join what could be a very interesting debate. I in fact wanted to start a thread seeking people's opinions on the merits or demerits of psychoanalysis - I guess my experience in psychotherapy would be my motive.

I don't know enough about Linda's problem and would just have to enquire whether this is PTSD relating to a one off incident or are we talking about Complex PTSD where the symptoms have perhaps become more entrenched? That would be my first point of departure. Anyway before I start approaching this like a theory essay and losing myself in analysis-paralysis/intellectualisation, let me just offer this.

Jung's shadow makes for fascinating philosophical discussion and in therapy is perhaps almost comforting as an archetypal reference to those unconscious elements in our psyche that so many of us are either blissfully unaware of, uncomfortably unaware of, disowning altogether or battling to befriend. A neat catch-all phrase which simply offers an interesting perspective and in therapy I believe this is as far as it should be taken - no further. Any further and I think we start entering what for me is questionable methodology in therapy - good OLD psychoanalysis (and even in classical psychoanalysis it is the analyst that should be analysing, not the patient). I suppose we can never really get away from it - it informs all types of psychotherapy but psychoanalysis itself - well I need to get back to my studying before I get carried away!!!

But just before I do - let me spew out a few of my own (shared by many) crits of psychoanalysis - just pointers - take it or leave it - hopefully others will join in the debate.

Crits: Costly, time consuming, encourages dependence, over-pathologizes, encourages navel gazing, over-intellectualisation (yeah!!!), reductionistic, unscientific/pseudoscience/lacking in empirical evidence, dangerous in the hands of inexperienced therapists, patriarchal/phallocentric, archaic, rigid, etc, etc

Personally I find psychoanalysis fascinating - just don't ever want to be psychoanalysed again!!

Night all


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A little background history for you Chisolm:

well I have late life ultra ultra rapid bipolar and PTSD. Led a full functioning successful life until about 4-5 yrs ago and had some major triggers which seemed to have set me up for disaster including repressed memories of childhood sexual abuse.

Looking back I think I had bipolar, but it was mild enough to keep pushing through sports, college, marraige, 7 children and handled it all. At times difficult but like anything you just do it...

I cant even relate to that now unfortunately so tapping into whatever coping skills I had doesnt help and I am medication resistant and have been through all the meds with either not working or I had severe side effects like this last one of pulmonary embolisms.

It seems I got double whammied because the cycling aggravates the ptsd and I have major dysregulation and my depression becomes very severe. It is like being 2 different people...

I just started seeing a trauma specialist and she trained under Bessel van der kolk. And she trains other therpaists as well. I have much confidence in her. I saw a major difference in just her questions the first few sessions then I had ever seen with my LSCW who I was seeing.

So yes I am cooking dinner right now(whooppee for me!!!) so I need to go as well.

I would love to hear what others have to offer as well :D

Thanks :)

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Yip - I was sexually abused (raped is probably more accurate) repetitively as an 11-year-old - unfortunately/fortunately I remember most of it. Not complicated by Bipolar but it was by severe depression which also developed later on in life. I suppose given that I remember most of the CSA, the triggers are easier to recognise. I have also come to understand that the lack of contextualisation of the abuse within an emotionally neglectful upbringing (and a fairly narcissistic mother) has been far more significant for me ito impact and functioning than the abuse itself.

Allan might have something to say about repressed memories of CSA - the theory behind it seems to be very controversial in and of itself - I don't have any expertise in this area but I certainly empathise as it must be very frightening to deal with.

Having had extensive psychoanalytic-type depth therapy (I hesitate to call it pure psychoanalysis as it was pretty eclectic on the whole but the premise was there), having gone through the trauma of a therapist losing his boundaries (by letting his feelings get involved - he was suspended by the professional society and sent back for his own depth therapy!!), my experience of psychoanalysis has not been a very positive one. Granted the inexperience/misdeeds of one therapist does not make for a conclusive case against psychoanalysis, but it certainly made me aware of the shortcomings and potential dangers of this type of therapy.

I was sucked into a wonderful world of intellectualisation which (in amongst all the emails. etc) made for a seductive interplay between my therapist and I. Instead of insisting that I speak directly to my feelings, he joined me in my NO.1 defence mechanism (which no doubt was also his NO.1 defence mechanism) and together we both played word games, ruminated on Jungian archetypes, sparred with analogies and flirted with Freudian parapraxis. Wonderful seductive little world of metaphor and symbolism while neither of us spoke about the HUGE pink elephant sitting in the room. To be sure there was plenty of feeling in the room but neither of us were willing to address it - UNTIL REALITY SET IN WITH A HORRIBLE THUMP! ...and then the power differential inherent in therapy caught up with me with a vengeance - not for a second had I realised how vulnerable I was - why would I, I trusted him implicitly!

Whereas I entered therapy having to deal with a traumatic past and severe depression, I left therapy almost schizophrenic and hugely traumatised!!

Anyway enough of my experience - it doesn't really help anyone else other than to point out that psychoanalysis does (in my humble opinion) by its very nature lend itself to navel-gazing, dependence, over-pathologizing, etc . In the hands of an inexperienced therapist it can be positively disasterous!!!

My new motto is (ala that brilliant beer ad in SA) KEEP IT REAL (as you can see I slip up quite often)!! The therapy that I am in at present is a whole different ball game. I am only allowed (by agreement btw us) to speak about feelings, my therapists is 100% authentic and does not hesitate to reflect her own feelings where she feels it necessary. I find dealing with triggers in the HERE AND NOW far more useful than rehashing the past or trying to impose some sort of diagnostic/theoretical understanding of the past. We do employ some basic CBT measures where practical but funnily enough I am wary of pure CBT as well. Sometimes it seems too simplistic and perhaps the polar opposite counter-reaction to P/analysis. Whereas the one extreme seems to be "the stuff that dreams are made of", the other seems almost band aid-ish to me but again I am certainly no expert - I can only speak for my experience.

What do others think?

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I'm fascinated by psychodynamic type of analysis, but I can understand your viewpoint, especially given what happened to you in therapy, Chisholm. I agree that the clinician would need to be competent and skilled. My therapy wasn't psychoanalysis, but we did do some psychodynamic work. I found it very helpful. I think it may really depend upon the individual...their personality and their specific challenges... as to what type of therapy would be the most beneficial. I always want to know the "whys" behind things and how things work. Putting the pieces together and understanding why and how they fit together worked well for me. But everyone is different, everyone has different needs and different reasons for being in therapy. So CBT might work best for some, psychoanalysis for others...I still believe the key to successful therapy is a quality match and a strong, emotionally healthy relationship between therapist and client.

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I totally agree with you IJ - I am also far too interested in the "whys" (possibly too much for my own good). I also agree that the type of therapy needs to suit the client's needs and that the fit/match needs to be appropriate. Unfortunately most clients/potential patients don't have this sort of FORE-knowledge (I certainly didn't) so I guess (where there has been no referral) one just has to hope that one ends up in the hands of a skilled therapist (most seem to have some sort of eclectic skills/training these days) who would adapt the type of therapy to their client's needs.

Ironically - apparently (and I say apparently because I do not have the confidence or self esteem to acknowledge or recognise this - but my psych's seem to think so.)the match between myself and my ex-therapist was too good???? Yikes!! Actually given what he did in the end that could actually be regarded as an insult!

Anyone have any comments on CBT vs psychoanalysis?

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In CBT you challenge the beliefs that determine your thinking and your behavior, right? You examine them, because most people haven't really done that, they operate from coping mechanisms they blundered upon and they assume what they think is true and how they behave makes sense based on those assumptions. CBT is a powerful method for coming to terms with your thinking.

My experience with depth psychology has been a powerful encounter with my relating.... and especially my relating to my transpersonal core. It really isn't something that words describe very well. It is most certainly experiential. I understand the criticisms people are saying about it. I also understand those that are drawn to it because it has helped them. It has helped me. A Jungian approach that includes shadow work will challenge your assumptions about who and what you hate. And may lead to surprises along the way.

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Hello Linda,

I've been very busy of late and I'm pressed for time even now but I wanted to offer a few comments.

I agree with Irma Jean that what works for any given individual is what works for them. For me, I've found Jungian perspectives to be enormously insightful and helpful. I have spoken on the shadow a great deal in my own posts and not solely in the one topic in this discussion area. If I had more time, I'd gather up some of those links for you but I don't. If you have the time and if the search feature can be used to search the discussions, you could probably find plenty of references to "Jung and the Shadow" in my posts. Barring that, google can pull up plenty of references for you as well.

Meantime, helpful as it may be to explore one's Shadow, the shadow itself is probably best understood in context to the other parts of the psyche as a whole. For that reason, I would encourage you, at minimum, to also look at the Ego/Persona for it's the development of the Ego/Persona that leads to the development of the Shadow. This link is one of my favorites as it provides a visual model and a basic introduction to the primary components of the psyche: Major Archetypes

Note, I would also have to agree with this statement by fmw: A Jungian approach that includes shadow work will challenge your assumptions about who and what you hate. And may lead to surprises along the way.

Not only will it challenge your assumptions about others, it will also challenge your assumptions about yourself. In the time since my own introduction to Jung's psyche I have come to prize some of my enemies as highly as my most cherished friends. Both offered a doorway into better understanding my self because both offered a reflection of my totality.

I would also like to emphasize this passage from the introductory link I shared...

The downside to the shadow work is that it involves confronting parts of ourselves which are located in the Shadow precisely because they are frightening or shameful. Jungian analysts advise that this work be done only under the supervision of a Jungian analyst, ignoring the fact that this eliminates a large class of people who cannot afford the services of such a professional. Another book (ref?) suggests that at very least one should do the work with the help of a very close friend whom one trusts in order to have a reference in the external world, an anchor and safe haven and source of reinforcement when dark realizations seem to be all out global truths of complete personal unworthiness. It isn't a journey to be undertaken lightly.

That passage is one of the reasons it's so very important to learn self-compassion -- what I sometimes refer to as self-mercy. Self-compassion or self-mercy is very different from self-pity as the latter always seems to contain a kernal of judgement and contempt within it. Self-mercy or self-compassion however allows us to accept that being human can be very difficult at times; it allows us to forgive our own failings.

In closing, I do not know if you will find Jungian approaches to be applicable to your own life but you can always give it a shot and see where it takes you. If you don't like it, set it down. If you do, walk with it for a while.

~ Namaste

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