Two things in my online mailbox yesterday touched me deeply. One was a post from a psychotherapist I follow named Martha. Here’s the link. I urge you to read it. It’s about the challenges faced by people who go to therapists, and what they get out of it. The other was a letter from Therese, a younger woman who took classes from me at the Jung Center some years ago and now lives in Oregon. She wrote to thank me for writing her a recommendation for admission into the Master’s program in Counseling Psychology at Pacifica University.
I saw a connection between these two which I’d like to share. In her blog post, titled “The Long Run,” Martha noted that some people go to therapists for short fixes to help them through difficult life situations, some continue for several years, and some devote their lives to depth work. Then there are those who wouldn’t see a therapist on a bet. As Martha wrote, “Many think that what you have spent your lifetime doing is foolish, ridiculous, mumbo-jumbo.”
Having recently written a post on people’s disparaging use of the term “navel gazing” to describe inner work, I related! I’ve seen someone’s eyes glaze over more than once when, in response to the question “So what do you do?” I tell them I’ve written a book and teach classes about working with your dreams from a Jungian perspective. Sometimes before the eyes glaze over they narrow in confusion as people ask, “Union perspective?” I’ve learned to avoid the subject.
I don’t usually have a lot to say at dinner parties although it’s only good manners to join in occasionally, even on topics that seem deeply unimportant to me. But when I smile and say nothing it’s not because I’m bored. Actually I enjoy these conversations, especially when I’m among dear friends. It’s just that I know that saying what I really want to say would produce more narrowed eyes—which would shortly thereafter be coated with glaze—and I don’t like doing that to my friends.
I’ve chosen a lonely path. When I first got serious about it, the realization that I was headed upstream to some distant, unknown source while everyone around me was enjoying the ride downstream was painfully isolating. Martha uses the metaphor of taking up residence on the mountain to describe the same thing. Being different is never easy. Moreover, there’s absolutely no assurance that depth work will cure what ails you, not even if you’re in it for the long run. In Martha’s words: “Here is what it will never do: Make you normal. Make life easier. Make you less lonely, (or rather, less alone).”
But there’s a flip side. Martha says it best: “Here is what it gets you: Pain transformed into service. Meaning and purpose extracted from senselessness. An opportunity to be creative in the face of destruction. A chance to be well-used.”
This is the connection between the two e-mails that I’ve been leading up to. When Therese attended her first class with me at the Jung Center, her eyes were alert and shining with curiosity and fascination. Not a trace of glaze anywhere. That light never went out. Of the students I taught there, three worked with me individually, and to my knowledge, they’re still doing depth work. Therese is one of them. Serving these three souls, finding meaning in my journey, and using my creativity—being well-used—has made it all worth it. Like Martha, I found my cure in the long run.
As you begin the next leg of your journey, Therese, here’s my blessing for you: When you look back on your life some day, may you find you were well-used.
It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life. Where you stumble, there lies your treasure. The very cave