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  • Jungian Psychotherapy and Listening

    This is a brief post on a case studies quotation on listening that I tweeted recently. It’s such a powerful statement, though, that I think it deserves its own blog post.

    “Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force.

    The friends who listen to us are the ones we move toward. When we are listened to, it creates us,

    Makes us unfold and expand.”

    -Karl A. Menninger

    Menninger was not a Jungian, but he was a very wise, astute therapist.  He knew the power of someone really genuinely listening, really genuinely getting what it is that we’re saying, taking it into the heart of who they are.  Listening is fundamental to all good therapy.  Really, it’s the key thing in meaningful human interaction of all kinds.

    Listening represents the power of someone else taking our story seriously.  This can have particular power at the times when when we might find it extremely hard to give ourselves that gift of taking our own experience with the deepest seriousness.  This is profoundly true for people who have continually received the message in life that who they are in their individuality really is unimportant or negligible.

    True, attentive listening amounts to someone’s acknowledgement of who we most fundamentally are.  It amounts to someone creating space in themselves for us to come in and occupy.  That can feel incredibly powerful, validating, healing.

    How will we know genuine listening when we come across it?  How can we tell whether someone listening to us, or our own listening to someone else, has the characteristics of the real, powerful listening that makes a difference in peoples’ lives?

    I think that an important element of the answer is found in the following quotation from C.G. Jung:

    The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.

    Carl G. Jung, Modern Man in Search of a Soul, 1933

    When we are genuinely in interaction with another human being, we know it.  There is an aliveness, and a spontaneity.  Something is going on in the two people involved that comes from their depths — and both of them are being changed.  As Jung notes, this is true in any human interaction, including case studies.  The idea of a therapist who is an immobile block of wood, who goes through the interaction with his or her client without that interaction having any effect on them — this is inhuman.  A real interaction with a therapist at a depth level is something that feels vital and alive.

    Are You in Dialogue? Are You Getting Heard?

    How is it in your life?   Are there relationships where you feel that you are genuinely heard, or is this something that you deeply crave in your life?

    Do you believe that genuinely being listened to, and being heard can make a deep difference in an individual’s life?  Is this something that you have experienced yourself?  Sometimes case studies is the first place in the life of an individual where he or she feels genuinely taken in, listened to — real.  Sometimes it can come as a real surprise to the individual to encounter this.

    May your personal journey to wholeness be one in which you are listened to, and genuinely taken in, in a deeply human way,

    Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

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    PHOTO CREDIT:     © Pavel Losevsky |

    © 2011 Brian Collinson

    Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Oakville / Mississauga border)

    1. Brian C
      February 25, 2011 at 12:31 pm -

      Thank you for your comment, Anne. I think that many of us in the psychotherapy field have the experience of both seeing and hearing how important it is for individuals to feel that someone is really making the effort to take in what they are saying, and is really “getting” what they are saying. There are many people who have had little or even no experience of this in their lives. And it does mean an incredible amount to people. I would really echo your insights, Anne… Thank you!

    2. jamenta


      March 2, 2011 at 1:26 pm -

      Methinks Jungian psychology hinges on one’s ability to be a good “listener”. To listen to the unconscious as it manifests within you and outwardly via synchronistic events in your life. To listen well enough to be able to integrate the direction of the unconscious with your own conscious direction – in order – I believe, to fulfill your own self-realization – the goals of your soul – your personal profound destiny of being.

      1. Brian C
        March 2, 2011 at 7:42 pm -

        Thank you for commenting, John. I do think that listening to the unconscious is a very important thing, and central to the individuation process. I also think that being listened to by others is an important part of that same process. Certainly Jungian analysis hinges on the individual getting heard, and on the dialogue with the listener, in order to facilitate the manifestation of the unconscious. In general, as Jungian analyst Mario Jacobi has strenuously pointed out, the “mirroring” that goes on in analysis, when it works well, plays a vital function in the journey to wholeness.

        I think it’s fair to say that, for the analytic work, both “outer” and “inner” listening are equally vital to “the work”.

        Thank you for your insight, John!

    3. jamenta


      March 2, 2011 at 10:49 pm -

      I am immediately struck by your quick (and kind) response to my previous comment Brian – how my thoughts in the previous are focused on the “single” experience of listening – the activity of listening to one’s dreams and paying attention to corresponding events in outer life – but in my comment – I think of it in the framework of one person. I do not think in the usual framework of “I” listening to “You”.

      Funny that. It does betray me a bit I admit.

      1. Brian C
        March 4, 2011 at 8:01 pm -

        Thank you for this comment, John. I’m not so sure that it may “betray” you in any fundamental way, other than perhaps to show that you are fundamentally an introvert. Certainly introverts are very fundamentally conscious of listening to the “inner man” or “inner woman”, in way that more extroverted people, who are more attuned to the outer than the inner, are just not able tio do. On the other hand, the extrovert may be much more attuned to the outer. However, just as it can be a source of real revelation to the extrovert, at the right time in his or her journey, to discover the inner, so it can be a source of something incredibly powerful for the introvert to experience a genuine, deep, listening to what they are saying. That is, to find an Other who may be willing to listen to, and capable of understanding, some of what is going on in their inner realm. Thanks for this inner reflection, John. I think it very likely points toward womething quite important.

    4. Percy Mcpeek
      September 28, 2011 at 2:46 pm -

      “Sometimes it’s a form of love just to talk to somebody that you have nothing in common with and still be fascinated by their presence.” ~ David Byrne

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