Carl Gustav Jung, 50 years later

Carl Gustav Jung, 50 years later

Maria Ilena Marozza (CIPA, Italy) and Stefano Carta (AIPA, Italy)

The 50th anniversary of Jung's death has been taken, by the two major Italian Jungian associations -AIPA and CIPA- as an opportunity to promote a reflection on his legacy to analytical psychology and his relevancy in our contemporary world. Therefore AIPA and CIPA have organized a joint conference with the title: 1961-2011. Carl Gustav Jung 50 years later, which will be held in Rome from November 18 to November 20, 2011.

For this conference, as organizers we have chosen an extremely agile structure that favors dialogue and open debate between the participants on topics that seem central in defining Jung's contribution to contemporary culture. In so doing we wanted to reconnect with and refocus on one of the most fundamental characteristics of Jungian thought, one that developed through a dialogue and a confrontation with Freudian psychoanalysis, with Bleuler’s psychiatry, with Janet’s dynamic psychology, with philosophy and history of religions, but also with some aspect of physics and chemistry.

It was from all these fields that Jung created models and metaphors with which to speak of the psyche, sensitive as he was to the cultural influence on the specific ways through which any psychological discourse is produced. Nevertheless, throughout his painstaking explorations, Jung was always very careful to maintain a psychological frame of reference, pinpointing it in the aptitude of the psyche to transcend every possible definition one might try to give it, and so defining the psyche as a “disturbance of any method”. “The most cursed dilettante” that Shamdasani describes in his precious reconstruction was a restless thinker, one who always traveled in the border areas, the frontiers between different fields of knowledge; making the potential interdisciplinary exchanges between such territories fertile with his critical spirit and powerful intuition; looking for any material that could give form to psychic experience and distinguishing his identity as a psychologist as one with a rigorous, empirical point of view.

If there is something that specifically characterizes Jungian psychology and that makes it still extraordinarily modern, it is exactly its open character towards the cultural world we live in, a world never given once and for all, which must be approached with the spirit of an explorer able to stimulate and transform in an individual way the “given-ness” of the world in which we find ourselves and in which we exist.

Therefore the Jungian spirit is preserved, not by being faithful to any specific formulation, which are culturally conditioned, but by being loyal to its values which oblige us to constantly keep alive a continuous dialogue and confrontation with the evolution of cultural and social contexts and with sciences theories, keeping at the same time our specific identity as researchers who observe and work on psychic phenomena, constantly looking for effective metaphors through which to speak of the psyche.

After all, Jungian thought has represented a corrosive criticism of any consciousness adapted to what is “average”, or of any identity which complies to a unilateral, collective way of being, or any passive attitude towards life that is not elaborated through subjective experience. For these reasons analytical psychology has always rejected any attitude in an analyst involved in psychotherapy or training that gives more value to pre-constituted knowledge than to a deep and thorough involvement in the clinical experience. For this we may well say that from the beginning analytical psychology has considered as truly therapeutic only the search and development of an autonomous capacity to learn from experience.

If, at the beginning of this third millennia, the "plague" of which Freud believed psychoanalysis was the carrier has been thoroughly eradicated due to the weakening of its virulence, or due to the development of strong anti-bodies within our societies, a "trickster’s spirit", agile, curious, restless and unconventional probably has not t all and this latter may be a worthy object of analysis. It is to such a spirit that we dedicate our conference.

We have chosen five topics which, while they describe in the best possible way Jungian thought, may at the same time represent a basis for a dialogue with our contemporary culture. Around each one of these topics we have organized a roundtable with analysts and researchers belonging to contiguous fields of science, cultural, and art.

The first roundtable has the following title: On the borders of knowledge. Analytical psychology and the different ways of knowing.

Jung had always shown a great interest in the problems regarding knowledge in general, and the deep awareness of the peculiar epistemological problems of psychology. The fact that it is impossible for psychology to find a vantage point outside of itself as object - due to the substantial identity between the subject and the object of psychological knowing; the structural complexity of the human being, well suppressed by the two antinomies that Jung believed to be the foundation of psychology. These antinomies: the reciprocal exclusion of individual and general, and the reciprocal dependence of psyche and body; the inextricable interaction between the cultural and natural that characterizes human existence, all make anti-reductionism and the resulting opening to a plurality of methods a specific and intrinsic characteristic of analytical psychology and that which has made it a truly unique and complex science to deal with extremely complex human beings.

The Jungian position is surely difficult, but it is also stimulating for any interdisciplinary dialogue because it considers it possible to be open to the scientific, philosophical, and artistic languages as dimensions that while methodologically specific are complementary for any understanding of our psychophysical reality. This means that behind different methods and approaches such a reality must be thought of as unitary in nature.

The second roundtable is entitled: Living our time. Analytical psychology and the challenge of ethics.

Jung, marking his differences from Freud, whom in his opinion was too much confined in an aseptic laboratory-like vision of psychology, wrote that his laboratory was the world. This openness to the world, to its meaningful forms and its configurations is without a doubt another specific quality of analytical psychology; the quality through which it becomes clear that it is impossible to isolate any manifestation of psychic life from the web of meanings, values and circumstances, precisely because psychic life itself is made within such a web. Once again analytical psychology, which is against any reductionism, is an advocate for a complexity that stems directly from the therapeutic experience as it is based on the encounter of multiple perspectives. Analytical psychology, while it may formulate scientific hypothesis, is not just science; while it requires speculative skills, is not just philosophy; while it takes advantage of practical competences, is not simple a way of doing. Along these lines, analytical psychology although it constantly poses ethical problems, can never be solved ethically. Although analytical psychology is a discipline that has its own individual nucleus, it is made of continual trespassing on nearby territories, and it makes the hinge around which its development turns the constant confrontation with what is alien.

The third roundtable is entitled: Fertile Contaminations. A Dialogue between Theories in Transformation.

During this session we would like to deal with our daily practice, in which we are open to many ways to approach clinical experience through various theoretical models which work in our minds to help us to represent to ourselves what happens during the analytical relationship, and to withstand its emotional weight. Starting from the radical Jungian anti-technical position, for which a psychotherapist does not have a method, but is himself the method, today we are in a position to carry on a dialogue with colleagues who, from the basis of much more defined theoretical positions, are today reflecting upon meta-theoretical factors that might help all of us to develop a new paradigm of our therapeutic practices - a paradigm centered more on the ability to metabolize emotional experiences. If this dialogue aims towards a meta-theoretical unification of the different dynamic psychotherapies based upon a common practical clinical attitude, at the same time it allows us to interpret some theoretical differences as "local" theories, open to transformations and contaminations. Such confrontation makes many Jungian ideas very relevant, in particular the meaning of emotional involvement, the rejection of any interpretative attitude that is opposed to experience, the care for singularity and the openness to disconfirmation which brings us closer to our Freudian colleagues when they speak of a negative ability, and to our colleagues from the field of phenomenology when they speak of negative experience.

The fourth roundtable is entitled: Psychopathology and clinical practice. Jungian practices in treatment.

In this session we would like to highlight the identity of Jung as a psychopathologist, intent observer of psychotic and dissociative phenomena. The most recent studies on the origins of Jungian thought have shed light upon the importance of the pre-Freudian Jung, so much influenced as has he was by Beuler’s idea of affectivity, together with the stratigraphic theory of psychological organization developed by Janet (as Jung recognized late in his life: "I don't come from Freud but from Eugen Bleuler and Pierre Janet, who were my direct teachers” ). Jung's theory of the affective-based nature of complexes, which he developed almost completely before his encounter with Freud, is part of an original and extremely modern psychodynamic model which enables us to constantly compare the most sophisticated and up-to-date theories on the plurality of forms of consciousness on the multiple ways of cooperation between emotional and representational systems, and on psychopathological syndromes characterized, as they are, by splitting and dissociation. Moreover, in his clinical and psychopathological thought, Jung is rooted in a tradition deeply different from the Freudian one. While Freud may be considered as a heir of a nosographic descriptive psychiatric approach, which has dominated the 20th century, Jung, as it has been pointed out for quite a long time seems, on the other hand, the follower of a humanistic approach, which culminated, but also found its limit, with the concept of a unique mental illness by Griesinger. Such a conception which aimed to interpret psychopathology as a variation from a fundamental disturbance, avoided the danger of dividing the human psyche. The model of the "one psychosis" (Einheit Psychose), which was pushed into the background by our modern nosographic models, today reveals a new relevance and the possibility to rethink many clinical phenomena otherwise impossible to classify and which point to the primacy of affectivity within the development of mental illnesses.

The fifth roundtable is entitled: On the side of the Unconscious. The value of negative values.

In this session we will discuss those values that are the foundation of our practice and that emanate from our idea of the Unconscious as a cleavage from our own subjectivity which makes it impossible to feel wholly one with our conscious identity. Undoubtedly, Jung belongs to that generation of founding fathers who have endorsed a strong idea of what the Unconscious is, theorizing it as a radical alien-ness, unrepresentable, and unknowable, yet, also the source of a constant, inextinguishable form of provocation for our own subjectivity that is constantly solicited and activated by the Unconscious to find answers. As a therapist, to be on the side of the Unconscious means to accept, in an unsettled yet committed way, to inhabit our own existence by favoring values that may be unpopular. It means to support an idea of “therapy” as rooted in a time of waiting, upon the recognition of the vital role of anxiety, the painful effort of personal elaboration, on the ability to think “in the first person”, and on the continuous reference to what is beyond any given and static, defined meaning. A therapy which may represent a different polarity within a world made of velocity, anesthesia and molecular division (the efficiency to perform rapidly, swift consumption, information in place of reflection, the flight from pain even at the price of desire, the impersonal nature of access to knowledge in this technical age).

Paradoxically, however, it is precisely in the keeping of these values that we may grasp the radical importance of the practices of analytical psychology today, as in the attention to the importance of individual development as opposed to the compliancy and a-critical adaptation which may neutralize every creative potentiality and reduce human life to a normotic form of existence . It is in these values that we may find the possibility to keep alive, against all cynicism, the trust that in human life, despite its deficiencies, distortions and trauma, not everything has been already made, not everything has been already said. In our values what we call illness, even if it shows to the highest degree our constitutional and "normal" fragility, does not mean, if not in extreme cases, that we are irreparably defective. It means that the symbolic word, that word that emerges and thoroughly works within ourselves, when it evokes even a shred of subjectivity, is able to heal us. Behind this attitude, there is both an anthropology and a way of thinking. This anthropology is bound to the idea of the subjectivity which, exactly because it is never complete, may therefore also be always growing, in potential evolution and in constant critical contact with our present existence. The way of thinking is rooted in the conviction that the very same operation that makes consciousness, language and thinking possible defines that other -nothingness, emptiness, silence, pre-verbal, or whatever it is that makes it possible for the word to be constantly symbolic, and that our representational consciousness may always stay afloat on the unrepresentable difference of the unconscious. If psychoanalysis is the discipline that introduced into the description of what it is to be human the principal of multiplicity within unity, its most authentic development in a society that tends to over-evaluate scientific skills and technical efficiencies can not but devote itself to the risk of reductionism and simplification in order to keep alive the interest for differences and for complexity and to refuse every absolute way to conceive a method.

Essentially, in the promotion of a permanent dialogue between science and philosophy, and in the conviction that our competence in what is human may be nourished by a constant exchange, it is possible to think more. It is in the service of this dialogue that, with the possibilities and resources that we have, we would like to devote our work in this conference.

by Maria Ilena Marozza (CIPA, Italy) and Stefano Carta (AIPA, Italy)

See : CIPA - AIPA Conference program, registration, location and time : 50th-anniversary-cipa-aipa-conference-sm1

Website : www.congressojung50.it/.