Individual Therapy & Individuation: Are You Born Yet?
The quote below shows what astute individual therapy knows: individuation often places an individual on a path that often involves more than one “dying” and one “birth”:
Jazz great Charlie Parker describes a technical change in his musical technique. But then he says something remarkable:
“… I could play what I heard inside me. That’s when I was born.“
The Secret of Initiation
In major life transitions, humans experience the reality of dying to an older self, and being “re-born” into a new identity. Here, Parker dies to who he formerly was, and is effectively re-born as an artist, as a person who can express his inner reality in powerful ways out in the world. It is as if he went through a one-way door in his life. He is not who he used to be. It’s as if he was re-born.
Today, people throw around the phrase “being born again”. It’s often used to describe the sloughing off of some old identity, and the assumption of a different conventional, stereotyped identity, often religious in nature. However, throughout the ages, humanity has meant something much more profound by the expression. In indigenous societies, when someone was undergoing initiation into adulthood, or as a shaman, the transformation was seen as literally dying to who the person previously was, and being born to a whole new and unique personal identity.
It is this kind of profound re-birth in Parker’s case. Often, it’s transformation of this magnitude that we need in individual therapy, to re-orient ourselves to our lives.
“I Could Play What I Heard Inside Me”
Parker uses this expression to describe what happens as a result of this transformation. He finds a way to access and express who he really is. Similarly, this is what we all need. I need to come to what is really me.
Re-Birth & Creative Receptivity
The type of re-birth Parker describes comes with the force of a revelation. It’s not something that he “whups up” by force of will. It’s something that happens to him. He can only receive it, as an infant receives life through the process of being born. This idea is alien to 21st century North Americans: our motto is, “where there’s a will, there’s a way.”
Good individual therapy knows that often what we need is something that we can’t will to be, because we can’t yet even imagine it. So, individual therapy can sometimes have the character of re-birth.