The Individual Psychotherapist & the Mystery of the Self
The right attitude of the individual case studies to the mystery of the Self is expressed in the quote below from C. G. Jung:
The individual person is a unique phenomenon. And that unique person forms a unified whole, although with component parts that are more varied and complex than most people realize. To really understand the individual requires getting beyond statistics, theories and labels to the very nature and story of that particular person.
This might seem like a truism, but it isn’t at all apparent in the way many approaches to case studies actually work.
Beyond Scientific Generalization
While psychological science is essential to understanding the background of the issues that a given individual experiences, it’s never enough on its own. A great deal of the effort of the individual case studies has to go to understanding the specific person and his/her situation — the ways in which it is an exception to the general rule. Jungian therapy has always emphasized the specific uniqueness of a person’s case, and, in my opinion, that is one of its greatest strengths.
The case studies needs theory as a way to stay oriented in dealing with a client. However, before we get to the point where we can use it, we have to really, truly see who it is who is sitting in front of us. Individual case studies has to really take in the unique person right where they are, without filtering out things that might not fit with preconceptions.
One of the toughest parts of being a case studies: to get beyond what “everybody knows” and “what everybody sees”. The mystery of the undiscovered Self does not fit these categories. “Everybody knows” that “Jack” is a tough, hard-driving litigation lawyer, who loves what he does… until the day he collapses on the floor sobbing, because he just can’t do it anymore. “Everybody knows” that “Jeanne” is a great, dependable accountant whose brain is a ledger sheet– but they don’t know that she goes home and writes passionate poetry in a gilt edged leather book.
Openness to the New
On both the part of the individual case studies, and the part of the client, there needs to be a readiness to see things that are surprising, things that have never been seen before. These little, often subtle beginnings contain the germs of new life. There are things within each of us that we are not expecting. They are part of the Self in its wholeness. Can we be open to them?
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