Sunday, December 19, 2010

Soul Purpose

I moved from Las Vegas to Seattle about three and a half years ago.  If you asked me then what my impetus was, I would have said Love.  And that fact remains as true today as it was before, but I now realize other factors were already in motion in the grand scheme of my life.  The wheels in the water of my unconscious were turning to guide me to my destiny one trickle of awareness at a time.  I know, I know, it sounds “woo woo” and “out there” but you’ll see.

I had a great sense of direction and ambition that gave me the ability to pack up all of my belongings (including a grand piano) and arrange to have them transported 1300 miles from the desert to the rainforest of the northwest.  Once I got here, the time came to unpack my life, both literally and figuratively.  Unpacking the boxes was easy part; once everything was sorted and placed I then had to figure out me and where I fit in this new environment.  The first step was to find a job, which turned out to be rather easy.  I took a retail customer service position and almost quit on my first day.  But I stuck with it and grew to quite like it but somewhere the shadow of my potential whispered that I was meant for something else.  Enter my first office job.  A co-worker told me about an office administrator position that was available at her other job.  I applied, interviewed and was hired.  If adjusting to the retail job was a struggle, then adjusting to the office job was climbing Mt. Everest in heels and a pashmina.  Nothing in my life could have ever prepared me for the abominations I would encounter in that small rented space.  Luckily, I had already been in therapy for a year, so I had someone to help guide me through the chaos.  I hate thinking about how I let myself put up with so much negativity, but in doing so I learned how to stand up for myself and voice my opinions.  I also learned that the work I did in therapy was transformative and I wanted to become a therapist myself to help others on their journeys. 

Here’s where all they “woo-woo-it’s-my-destiny-stuff” comes into play.  I didn’t’ want to become a boring run-of-the-mill cognitive behavioral therapist, but a depth psychologist.  Depth psychology is the old school model that began with Freud.  The kind in which one searches the unconscious for the repressed content that can aid in healing.  My own therapist was a Jungian and the more I learned about Jung and experienced his theories at work in my life, the more I knew that I wanted to become a Jungian.  I understand that Jung quite famously said, “I am glad I am Jung and not a Jungian” but for the purposes of this tale I will happily wear the Jungian mantle.

I didn’t realize when I moved here or when I started therapy that Seattle has a large Jungian community.  The emerald city is home to a C.G. Jung Society, the Jungian Psychotherapists Association and the North Pacific Institute for Analytical Psychology.  Seattle is also home to one of the five Antioch University campuses in the country and the only campus to offer classes in depth psychology.  That’s right.  The only one.  You can study psychology at virtually any university in the country, but depth psychology is a different matter.  If one is to study depth psychology, it is usually in graduate school.  A professor at my Antioch orientation pointed out that Antioch is the “only school that offers depth psychology classes at the undergraduate level.”  Jung might say this was synchronicity, or a meaningful coincidence.  I’ll go one further and say it was Fate. 

Just to be sure, I looked at other undergrad psychology programs offered by various universities and sure enough, they did not offer depth psychology courses.  Just for fun, I looked up Jungian therapists in the Las Vegas area.  Maybe I could have stumbled upon the same path if I had stayed in the desert, but no, there wasn’t a Jungian therapist to be found.  No Jung Society and no analytical psychology training program.  When it came to depth psychology, Las Vegas was as barren as the desert on which it lay. 

I began thinking about the word psychotherapy which literally means “soul healing.”  The famous indication that one is crazy is to move an index finger in a circular motion while pointing at their head.  The assumption is that “crazy” is in the head, but I believe suffering is in the heart.  The suffering causes the non-traditional behavior and if you can find the root cause of the suffering then the behavior becomes manageable or disappears all together.

I believe part of the reason for the lack of a Jungian presence in Las Vegas is because the city does not have a soul.  The city was forged on depraved behavior and that image is intact today, as we all know that “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.”  The flashing lights of resorts beckon one to enter, promising the exotic landscape of Egypt, Paris or Rome.  The ceilings are adorned with clouds and blue skies to give the feel of being outside in vitamin D enriched sun, but the reality is a smoky and dank amid an endless cacophony of bells and sirens hearkening one to wake up from fantasy.  But the warning goes unheeded and spurs delusions of being the next to hit the big one.  The jackpot seemingly bestows self-worth onto those pulling the handle or trusting in cards, but they don’t realize that the jackpot is already inside them.  Jung spoke of a treasure buried in the field that was each individual’s task to find. 

I had to move 1300 miles away to find my buried treasure.  I don’t think I could have done so otherwise, at least not in the same fashion and at a time when I needed it most.  The discovery of my Self is a gift that has no measurable value.  You could argue that the cost would be akin to the money spent on therapy.  But I would gladly pay ten times that amount if it meant the same result.  My adventure that started with love led me to my soul and my purpose.  I would be foolish to ask for anything more.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

A Mandala of Me

The following is for my educational portfolio, which will have to demonstrate my proficiency in the liberal arts core competencies embodied by Antioch University:

A Mandala of Me

Mandalas are a form of art that is shared by many cultures including Tibetan monks and the indigenous people of North America. Swiss psychologist Carl Jung employed mandalas as a way to see a snapshot of the Self at the time it was created. I keep a sketchbook of personal mandalas as a way to hone my creative energy while practicing art therapy at the same time. Traditionally, a mandala (the Sanskrit word for circle) is divided into quarters and with this analogy I will describe my liberal arts competencies.

Critical and Creative Inquiry

One of the reasons I decided to finish my BA in Psychology was to ultimately get paid to do what I love in helping people find solutions. I realize that I already do that on a daily basis taking calls for a pest control company. I’m more than just an answering service in that I actually have to know how to assess a pest problem and explain to a potential client how we go about treating it and why they should choose my company. This capacity to help people is not enough for me and I want to do it on a more in-depth level, thus enter psychology. When I have downtime at work I surf the internet like anyone else would. But instead of frequenting celebrity gossip sites or hunting for recipes, I research psychological modalities, case studies and theories.

I keep three different journals: one for recording dreams, one for personal reflection and the mandala sketchbook. I also compose original songs that I sing and perform on the piano in my living room—sometimes for an audience, sometimes not. Through undergoing a personal Jungian analysis I have explored where these things come from and what they mean. Before being in therapy I would have said that the songs come from somewhere else, as though I was channeling them. But I now know that they come from me and owning that takes hubris and confidence—two things that I didn’t have for most of my life.

Self in Community

I have a history of agoraphobia and anxiety that has made it difficult to go out and be around people, therefore I’ve never volunteered at a charitable organization. However, several years ago, I did make 125 beaded bracelets for the My Stuff Bag Foundation, which provides personal duffel bags filled with toiletries, toys and blankets for children who were removed from their homes. But I certainly don’t see that as being nearly enough.

One of my goals in studying psychology is to devise and conduct studies that examine the link between obesity and child abuse. But just like I found there is meaning in music and art beyond the actual creation of it, I believe there is meaning in fat. Not just my fat but everyone’s fat. While I attempt to find that meaning I also have to come to terms with the fact that I’m an overweight woman who has to function in society. This is not always an easy task but I’ve made it my personal mission to be an advocate for myself so that I can be an advocate for others. One of the ways I have done this is by bringing the latest scientific research on obesity in the workplace to my general manager when I felt there was a bias against myself and other overweight women in my office. He and I had a private meeting to discuss my concerns, which ended with us both feeling like we had mutual understanding with no hard feelings.

Understanding the World

My ultimate goal in studying psychology is to open a private practice as a Jungian-oriented psychotherapist. Jungian psychology is different from other psychologies in that it acknowledges the Collective Unconscious. Archetypal symbols show up in dreams and creative endeavors and by understanding these images as they reveal themselves on a personal level then I will be better able to understand them on a global level. For instance, I have very little power in my work environment being the person with the least seniority among people who have been with the company for over a decade. Power is an archetypal energy that exists in my personal unconscious that I then project onto the management. Once I realized that power is projected from myself, then I could withdraw it and reclaim it for myself, like when I brought the issue of possible weight discrimination to my superiors. In turn, this view can and should be manifested in a global arena, especially when dealing with populations that are underserved.

The Journey

The final quadrant of the Mandala of Me is the journey. I am nowhere near the destination I envision through the completion of my goals. Even when I graduate Antioch I will still need to finish graduate school and pass a state exam in order to obtain licensure to practice. The time from start to finish is daunting and that’s when I focus on honoring this academic and soulful sojourn. As the platitude goes, it’s one day at a time. But it’s also one class or one professor or one reading at a time that can create the next level of awareness that transforms from the inside out.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

My first college paper in 15 years.

Ego & Archetype Chapter 2 Summary

In chapter two of Ego & Archetype, Edinger introduces the alienated ego by first focusing on the ego-Self axis and the psychic life cycle. The ego-Self axis is a bridge between consciousness and psyche that allows the ego to grow. This inflation of the ego is the first step in the psychic life cycle and is necessary for alienation to take place. Following ego inflation and alienation are repentance, restitution, and once again, renewed inflation. This cycle will repeat itself and each completion of this cycle gradually increases consciousness. This increased consciousness leads to the development of the individual.

Severe despair occurs when the connection to ego and Self is damaged. Consequently, this despair is followed by violence which can be self-directed or directed at other people. This paradigm is paralleled in Genesis in the story of Cain and Abel, when Cain murders Abel after God rejects his offering. This despair causes the alienation of the ego, which always precedes the numinous experience, or awareness of the Self. In art and literature, alienation is often symbolized by the wilderness and in this wilderness is where God is encountered. It is important to note that the ego and Self must be separated in order to experience alienation for it is in the absence of ego that the Self can be made known.

A negative relationship with one’s parents in childhood can disrupt the psychic life cycle, which can later result in an inferiority neurosis in adulthood. In this instance the ego-Self axis must be repaired. This process can take place in psychotherapy through transference (in the form of projection of the Self) from the analysand onto the analyst. Edinger uses the interpretation of a woman’s dream to illustrate this point: a woman who was neglected by her father dreams that soldiers in a frozen wasteland are raping her. However, the final soldier treats her with kindness and takes her to a warm place and feeds her soup. The dream represents the alienation caused by past abuse and the restoration that is currently taking place in therapy.

I have personally experienced how rejection by a parent can cause an inferiority complex as well as how that complex can be repaired through therapy. In my case, a lack of affection and undermining comments from my mother stunted my personal growth, which appeared in the form of anxiety and eventually agoraphobia. Not only did I think I didn’t deserve to be treated well, I believed I wasn’t even fit to be seen in public. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, the transference I experienced with my psychotherapist was seeing her as a mother figure. I felt that she gave me the acceptance and concern I didn’t receive from my own mother and that allowed my own healing to take place. Edinger would say that the feeling of acceptance was in fact a projection from my own Self onto my therapist and feeling that acceptance repaired my ego-Self axis, which allowed the healing to begin.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Who Needs To Know?

In my Abnormal Psychology class last week the professor posed two questions: What is life? And who needs to know? There were varying answers to the first query but none were truly surprising: love, happiness, growth, challenges and other platitudes. I was the first to offer an opinion to the latter “I need to know. As long as I know then it doesn’t matter if anybody else knows.” The next volunteer disagreed with me and said, “Everybody needs to know. If I know you then you need to know everything about me.” Several people nodded in agreement, “Yes, everyone needs to know.”

Part of me felt stupid because no one agreed with me but I was glad I spoke my truth and didn’t wish I had opted to remain silent. Still, I had to wonder why I saw things differently than they did but that’s as far as I got, until today.

I have been met with a spectrum of reactions since I announced that I was going back to school, not just to finish a degree, but also to eventually become a psychotherapist. To everyone else I guess it seemed to just come out of left field but this is something I had been pondering for well over a year. Most people are supportive, including the ones that count the most: loved ones, of course, but also the owner and general manager of the company for which I work. I was counting on them to be flexible with my schedule to allow for my studies and they obliged. You would think the hard part would be over. But no, enter the Shadow Struggle.

Shadow Struggle is a term I coined in therapy when discussing my office manager. She’s not the same office manager I have complained about in the past (she was demoted) but a gal who started working for the company about a year ago. Eight months into this gig she was promoted to office manager. I was a bit hurt at the time because I had always mentioned my desire to have a managerial position within the company. I was always told that position didn’t exist but it would one day, which made me think that when it did exist I would be in the running. I dusted off my bruised ego and told myself it’s not what I really wanted anyway. All I really needed to do was keep working to put myself through school. So where does the shadow struggle come in? Before Ms. Newbie was promoted and she was just a peon underling like me, I had told her about my plan to go back to school and kept her updated on my application process. She was very supportive while I was planning on going to a state university. Then things changed once my heart was set on a private university and I was accepted with record speed. There was a definite shift. I was no longer asked how my plans were coming along. If I offered information I was met with a cool “Oh, well that’s nice.” Enter the Shadow Struggle. I soon realized that the office manager would have liked to finish college but an unplanned pregnancy got in the way. She has the two things that I don’t have: a high paying job and a kid. I’ve always wanted both but life hasn’t worked them out for me yet. As I’m getting older I have accepted the fact that I will probably never give birth to my own child (but that’s a story for the future.) In turn, I am getting the education that having a child prevented her from having. Our phantom ambitions played foils to each other and prevent us from getting along.

So who needs to know? My answer is still the same: I do. I am the only one who can know my purpose and I am the only one who can get me to where I want to be. Just today I was on the receiving end of some petty, vindictive behavior for pointing out a mistake the office manager made. I didn’t do it to be mean but because her mistake caused an inconvenience for a client and as a company we pride ourselves on client care. In dealing with childish office politics I have to know what my life is about in order to navigate to the other side. The “I know” is my compass faithfully directing me to the True North of my potential.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

"Have to Drive (Live)" from the "WHO KILLED AMANDA PALMER" DVD

Have To Drive

I decided to become a Jungian therapist a year and a half ago. It just came to me one day, I don’t really remember when or how, it just was. Not knowing how one goes about this task, I asked my therapist Leslie. She told me “You have to find a school that will teach Jung.” She said it in such a way that it seemed as though it may be difficult. I think in my mind at the time I equated difficult with impossible and too daunting to think about any further for a while. She also said I would have to get a bachelor’s degree (in anything I wanted, her suggestion was music for me) and then get a master’s degree in psychology and then you can get licensed and practice. For some reason I thought there were “counseling programs” to train you and no actual college degrees were required. This is all highly laughable to me now and shows how little I knew about what it means to be a Jungian psychotherapist.

Several months later, I was unable to sleep in the middle of the night and did a search for “colleges that teach Jung” on my Mac. I wasn’t finding programs that were called Jungian Studies but programs in Depth Psychology that included Jung’s theories in their programs. Again, it’s very funny to me because I had no clue what depth psychology was and found myself asking Leslie at our next session. She explained that Depth Psychology is the umbrella and Jung would fall within it, along with Freud and others who studied the Unconscious. She asked me what schools I had found and was Pacifica Graduate Institute one of them? Yes, actually it was! But it’s in California. However there is a school in Seattle called Antioch that teaches depth psychology. She looked at me smiling and said, “You’ll get a great education at Antioch.”

I saw a few immediate problems, the first being that Antioch is in Seattle and I don’t drive to Seattle. The second was that it’s a private university and the tuition was pretty high and why spend that much money just to finish an undergrad degree? Once again, I put the idea to bed for a little while.

Fast-forward to earlier this year when I had my “epiphany” (for lack of a better word) that if I didn’t go back to school soon to get the degrees I need I would never become a psychotherapist. I decided to apply to the new University of Washington campus in Bothell, which wasn’t too far from home and offered a new degree in Community Psychology. It seemed interesting enough but the classes are held during the day, which would mean I would have to quit my job and find something in the evenings. And I wasn’t really too thrilled about the likelihood of taking classes with kids fresh out of high school. Even still, I applied in February for winter quarter 2011. When I didn’t hear anything right away I began to get worried I wouldn’t get accepted. And if that was the case, what was my Plan B?

Enter Antioch University. I started poking around their website and found out they are a school that is geared towards working adults and only offers classes in the evenings. Well that would cut out the teenybopper factor and eliminate the need to find a new job. Plus, you could design your own degree program. I would be able to combine concentrations in Psychology an Spiritual Studies (a combination of depth and transpersonal psychologies) to prepare me for my ultimate goal: graduate work at Pacifica in Santa Barbara, California—the premier institute for Jungian studies and depth psychology. Antioch was looking that the perfect school for me. I applied to Antioch in March and got called for an interview in April and was accepted in May. I have yet to hear from UWB.

There was still that issue with driving. I had turned my initial statement of “I can’t go to Antioch because it’s in Seattle and I don’t drive to Seattle” around into “I will learn to drive in Seattle so that I can attend Antioch.” But I still had to do it and I had to do it fast because orientation was being held two weeks after I got my acceptance letter. I thought I would have a whole summer to leisurely practice driving to convoluted, one-way street laden Seattle but life had something different planned for me. I did two practice drives with my boyfriend over the next two Saturdays and then I would be solo for Monday’s event. I was nervous all day long with shaking, no appetite and constant bathroom breaks. Then it was time to go. And as I got on the highway, I was fine. I got off the highway and carefully navigated my way through downtown with hyper vigilance. But I was fine. My gps announced “Antioch on your right” and I was there and I was fine. Now came the part of meeting a bunch of strangers. And again I was fine. In fact, I was more than fine--I was at home. All the anxiety about getting there dropped away because I knew I was in exactly the place I needed to be. I don’t know that I’ve ever felt that before. In that concrete building in Seattle that was a symbol of no-man’s-land for so long I had found a place where I belonged. And now the driving seemed like nothing because the driving leads me here.

I have to drive. I drive my car to school so that I can drive my ambitions. One day I will drive to California and drive to my ultimate goal. And then I will drive some more to destinations yet to be realized. I will drive. And I will be fine.

Saturday, May 29, 2010


It’s official! I will be starting Antioch University in the fall. I opened the letter right in the middle of the driveway despite the drizzle and quickly scanned for the only word I cared about: accepted. Isaias gave me a huge hug and I immediately started sobbing so hard the tears filled up my glasses. I wasn’t crying merely because I was admitted because I knew I would be, even before I applied. In fact, the woman who interviewed me said that I was a strong applicant and exactly the kind of person they were looking for. She said she would recommend me for admission and “see me in the fall.” I was crying because my dreams are starting to come true and a dream realized is a strange feeling. I am going to finish my BA and eliminate all the guilt I had for not finishing it when I was so close over a decade ago. And then I will go to graduate school to get an MA in Counseling Psychology and I will be able to start a private practice. The Plan that I made for myself at the beginning of the year is coming into fruition…and fucking WOW.

There is finally a light at the end of the tunnel. There will be a last day at my current job. There will be a day when I don’t have to dread dealing with those difficult dysfunctional people. There will be a day when I will do what I do best and make money doing it!

My interviewer asked me simply at the beginning of our meeting “Why Antioch?” I told her that I had a very specific goal of doing graduate work in depth psychology at Pacifica Graduate Institute and that an education at Antioch would be the best first step I could give myself. And so it begins, “the adventure the hero is ready for is the one that he gets,” said Joseph Campbell. I am ready for my adventure and I am equipped with everything that I need, including the thing that I haven’t had in the past—outside support. I have the support of a loving and wonderful man who has never discouraged me from following my path. And I have an excellent network of friends who have been my cheerleaders every step of the way. And I have my amazing psychotherapist who told me at our first session that everything I need to be successful can be found inside me. And that is why this time will be different.

I am on my way.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


Got a call today to set up my interview at Antioch University! So fitting that I got this call at work, at the very same desk where everything started to happen to me. It really came full circle. I'll be meeting with an admissions adviser on May 10 so that gives me plenty of time to find the perfect outfit and rehearse my "story" so that I don't go blank. I am excited and was shaking after the call but my "calm focus" has returned. Unusual for me, but I like the change.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

I Want One!

I had my first encounter with full-grown Saint Bernards this past weekend and it was love at first sight. They were so calm and affectionate--they melted my heart. They were definitely therapy dogs for me in that moment. I wonder if they ever work as actual thearpy dogs? In either case, it makes moving out of this leaky duplex and into a single family home with a fenced in yard seem very appealing. Plus, a friend of ours runs a Saint rescue--seems like it was meant to be, n'est-ce pas?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Two Years Gone: Looking Back and Moving Forward

Two Years Gone: Looking Back and Moving Forward

Two years is a long time. And in that time I have changed greatly. Tremendously. I can say that I am definitely not the person today that I was back then. I am a better person. I was always nice and respectful…of others, yet lacked the skills to be respectful to myself. And if I had been this new and improved woman back then, the shit that happened would never have flown. But fly it did.

Things were messed up from the get go but I truly didn’t know any better. I didn’t think to ask for a job description and what was explained to me seemed ok enough. But there was one omission—I was expected to drive as part of this job. Had that fact been made clear to me at the onset my story would end here, as I would not have accepted a position that required me to drive. I could have declined without explanation and no questions asked.

I am a recovering agoraphobic. The last manifestations of my condition reside in driving. I am comfortable driving my own car around my regular haunts. But my new job required me to drive a company car—a sedan that was much larger than my compact Toyota. I was really nervous the first time out and had to do some breathing exercises to stave off a panic attack and I even went to the bathroom to cry upon my return. Subsequent trips in the company car lessened my anxiety and then the unthinkable happened: the company car was taken away and I was expected to drive a company rig. The rigs are pick-up trucks with canopies and you can’t see out the back window and must rely on mirrors to see behind you. I was told I would have to drive these vehicles before my lunch break one day. I went home and had a panic attack, fervently reading and re-reading my employment contract to see if I missed anything regarding this driving obligation. I hadn’t.

Allow me to back up the truck a moment. When I interviewed for this job, I told my potential boss who is also a counselor about my struggles with agoraphobia, my success with therapy and that I still have problems with driving. He didn’t seem to have a problem with it and I think he appreciated my candor.

After the aforementioned lunch break, I returned to work and spoke to my office manager about having difficulties with driving unknown vehicles. I even mentioned that this was brought to the attention of the owner at my interview. Her solution was to have another employee take over the driving. Fast-forward several months to when my office manager tells me “We really have to get you into a rig” and of course I panicked. I thought this was over. I made my reservations known and I was “taken outside.” We work in a small office with little privacy so anytime someone is to be reprimanded, it is done outside, in front of the office. She told me “I thought we were past this.” And I was perplexed because even though I was in therapy, learning to drive foreign vehicles was not on my list of things to accomplish. I told her it was stupid for me to have to consider quitting my job because I didn’t want to drive a truck, especially when it wasn’t made clear to me that I would ever have to do so. She told me that if I quit it was my choice and that lots of office positions require you to drive. I pointed out that she had seen my resume and that I came from a background of food service management and retail customer service—neither of which require one to drive. She told me that she had reservations about hiring me due to my lack of office experience but decided to give me a shot. She then said that the two owners didn’t know that I had “this problem” and she had been covering up for me and insinuated that if they found out that I wasn’t driving that I would be in trouble.

I was furious! How dare she use my condition against me, and then claim that I should be past this by now? That is not her determination to make. And I knew she was lying because I had told the owner myself about my struggles. I went to the other owner because she was in the office at the time. I explained to her my struggles regarding having to drive for this job. Imagine my surprise when she said “Honey, if you don’t want to drive you don’t have to.” Simple, just like that. Imagine the immediate relief and the subsequent rage that all of this could have been avoided. That perhaps all of this was manufactured just to make me feel bad about myself and my condition. And yet I persevered. I thought about quitting but I didn’t because this job paid very well and I desperately needed the money.

And that was just the first issue of many. Others included the garden variety office drama of people talking behind your back and being harassed and insulted by the crass, insidious man whose behavior was excused because “That’s just Steve.” Another occasion found my sales records being sabotaged by a co-worker, which resulted in my desk being moved into another room to get away from her. And yet another was having to report verbal and physical harassment by a male co-worker. In his case, he was forced to sign something saying the behavior would stop and even one infraction would result in his immediate dismissal. Are we sensing a trend here? I did. The violators are not prosecuted and the burden of all the bad seeds was upon me. Why didn’t I just leave? Long story short, I wasn’t the person I am today. If I had been I would have left the first time my agoraphobia was used to shame me and make me feel bad about myself. But for some reason I kept working towards a change.

Which brings me to today. I have my resignation letter written and ready to turn in to the powers that be. Part of it is that I’m going back to school full-time to become a psychotherapist. Part of it is that I’ve grown out of the job and wish to do something different with fewer constraints on my time. But the biggest part of it is retribution for what should have happened long ago and didn’t. For all the bullshit I had to put up with. If anything was learned it is that age does not dictate behavior as all of the offenders were old enough to be my parents and should have known better. I can speculate as to reasons why I was targeted but that’s a story for another day. In the end, what is important is being able to look back and see that I have grown and have developed boundaries and self-respect. And I will take those qualities and find a place where I can project them and have them reflected upon me in a way that is healthy. It will happen because it is supposed to happen. As Joseph Campbell said “The adventure the hero is ready for is the one that he gets.” I am ready for mine.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Platitudes, Psychotherapy and Personal Growth: Finding Meaning in the Mundane

March 18, 2010

Platitudes, Psychotherapy and Personal Growth: Finding Meaning in the Mundane

“What do you do for personal growth?” he asked me. I was at my third job interview at the age of 32. Not third interview for this job, mind you, but third interview of my life. I started working for my parents at the age of 14 and continued working for them for 18 years. I had a brief break my first quarter of college and for a few months when the entire family left cold, cloudy Cleveland for the sunny grand adventure of Las Vegas, where we would open a store and run it as a family. You would think I was brave, trekking across the country to face the unknown. But neon lights, burnished mountains and 110-degree heat had nothing on what ultimately claimed me—agoraphobia.

I’m not exactly sure when it started. Perhaps it was before we even left, as I was terrified of driving my car across the country. So we traded it in and took my then-husband’s car instead. And I didn’t drive again for nearly six years. There wasn’t a good reason for it, I just didn’t and no one really pressed me on it and so it was. When we bought a house, we chose one that was only a few blocks from my parent’s house so they could easily pick me up on their way to work. Then Jay or my sister would take me home from work. “Jenny doesn’t drive,” they would say. But that wasn’t entirely true. I had had my license since I was 17 and knew how to operate a vehicle. In fact, one night before heading home from work my sister got sick and asked me to drive us in her car. I was panicked and frightened and don’t think I ever approached the speed limit on the highway, but I did it. That was the only time. Well, the only time until Jay and I decided it was time to get a second car.

In 2003 we purchased the first brand new car either of us had ever owned. I don’t remember what the impetus was, only that it was to be my car to drive even if I was only going to drive it to work and back. And even though I had this new semi-mobility it didn’t cure me of my fear of going places alone. I didn’t do my own grocery shopping or pump my own gas and if Jay was with me, he was certainly the one doing the driving, not me.

Fast-forward four years in which we bypass my divorce, my first-ever sessions with a psychologist (who ultimately diagnosed me as agoraphobic), and a burgeoning new relationship with the man who holds my heart to this day. A wonderfully supportive man who helped me to take the first steps in my recovery and ultimately drove with me the 1300 miles from Las Vegas to Seattle (each driving exactly half of the 18 hour journey) to make a home and a life together. Isaias always told me I could do anything I wanted to do. It would take me a while to realize and eventually I did and am now reaping the rewards of that conviction.

Don’t think that I think of myself as some fairytale princess who just needed her Prince Charming to come and save her. My story is not that succinct. After my move I became depressed for the first time in my life. I had never been so far away from the family I was used to seeing every day and it was taking its toll on me. Once again I decided to seek therapy. My previous foray into psychotherapy was less than a success. I learned a few things, like how to “build on my successes” in terms of conquering my fear of driving. But over time I began to see my therapist as a parent-type and wasn’t being totally forthcoming with her for fear of being reprimanded like a child. I stopped going after just a few months. I found my current therapist through a referral from a friend’s therapist and have been seeing her regularly for almost three years. And she’s not just any therapist—she’s a Jungian psychotherapist. I don’t know why the fact that she was Jungian resonated with me. I certainly didn’t know much about Jung. I owned a copy of “Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious” but I had never gotten more than 20 pages into it. The referral list I was given had about 8 names on it. I called several and left messages for all and made an appointment with the first one who called me back. Then Leslie returned my call. I don’t know what it was about her but I knew she was the one. I made an appointment with her and called the first one back to cancel and I’m so glad I did.

My confidence in driving began to regress once I moved and I was scared about having to take the highway to a place I’d never been to meet a woman with whom I was going to share my most intimate fears. I don’t remember much except that she was very nice and welcoming and understanding. I had told her that I moved here with Isaias yet I felt alone because Isaias had family and everything here and “I have nothing.” She plucked that phrase and made it the focus of the session. Before our next meeting I was to make a list of “What I Have.” And I did. And with it came hope. It was the beginning of a beautiful journey that has brought me to where I am now.

“What do you do for personal growth?” asked my soon-to-be boss. I loved the question and I loved the interview—the most Zen, non-interview ever, of that I’m sure. I told him that I was a singer/songwriter/pianist and that I use music to express myself and attain personal growth. He told me that he had a master’s degree in counseling and I shared with him my experience of agoraphobia and recovery and that I was in therapy still working on it all. He told me what a mentor once told him: Pain is our birthright. We shook hands, said our goodbyes and I was offered the job a few hours later.

In the two years since then we’ve had the opportunity to “wax philosophical” on a few occasions. Most recently he told me of a Sanskrit phrase “Neti neti” which translates to “not this, not that.” He used it to illustrate how to describe what God is or what Love is—we don’t know what it is, but we do know what it is not. Neti neti. I didn’t know the extent of how this would resonate with me.

The New Year found me agitated and feeling stagnated. I didn’t feel like I was going anywhere with my life. Sure, my job paid well and I had learned skills I never thought I would but somewhere deep inside I wasn’t satisfied. Enter: Death. No, I’m not being emo and I didn’t attempt suicide or have a near-death experience. This is Death from The Endless. The sister to Dream, Desire, Delirium, Destruction, Despair and Destiny. The Death of the Sandman graphic novel series by Neil Gaiman. More simply, I changed the desktop background on my computer at work to an image of Death—a pretty Goth girl with a charming smile. Written on it was “You get what anyone gets. You get a lifetime.” The words haunted me. I found myself avoiding the text and her exuberant gaze. I had decided a year prior that I wanted to become a psychologist but I was just waiting to save enough money to go to school. But then there’s Death looming over me telling me my time will be up eventually. My 35th birthday was just two months away. I had no plans to go to school but if I didn’t go now, when was I going to go?

I had recently read an article on a blog called Zen Habits entitled “The World Needs You To Do What You Love.” It listed seven steps to get started on doing fulfilling work. Work doesn’t need to be boring and mundane. Work should be something you’d do even if you didn’t get paid for it. One of the steps was to make time to attain your goal. So I made the time to research universities and make education my number one focus. I have applied to a state university and will apply to a private university soon. I already have my graduate school picked out. I am going to be a Jungian analyst with a private practice.

Oh yeah, Jung. Dr. Carl Gustav Jung. Remember when I said that something about Jungian therapy resonated with me? At the time I would have said, “hmmm, that’s kind of strange.” But now I would say that it was me connecting to the collective unconscious. Deciding to become a psychotherapist isn’t just a decision it’s part of my process of Individuation. I always knew I was an Introvert, but I didn’t know that Dr. Jung coined the term. Leslie told me early on that the answers to all of our problems were located in our unconscious. I nodded and I believed her but I didn’t think it would actually happen or realize the impact it would have on me when it did.

I feel like I’m part of a tradition. Carl Jung suffered a psychotic break when Sigmund Freud excommunicated him from the analytical community. Jung was able to heal himself by studying his Unconscious as it revealed itself in his dreams, paintings and visions. I, in turn, was able to heal myself (with Leslie’s help) by heeding what my Unconscious was trying to impart to me. I’m also a part of another tradition. Many of Jung’s patients came to him after having been analyzed and told him that they had figured out what they wanted to do: they wanted to be an analyst just like him. This happened so frequently that Jung would slap his head and say “Not another one!”

And so it goes. Not this, not that. Neti neti. Eureka! I have found it! What do I do to attain personal growth? I grow. I continue to reach for that which will help me to actualize my full potential. A potential that wasn’t met in working in the family business or selling pest control and definitely not in hiding away, afraid to go out into the world. I embrace the difficult and the challenging so I can look back and say, “I accomplished that. What’s next? Bring it on.”

Monday, February 22, 2010

Cunundrum...or Not So Much

I ordered a copy of Carl Jung's The Red Book from Amazon just before Christmas. They kept stringing me along and changed the delivery date several times, with the most recent ETA being late March to early April. So I contacted the bookstore at Pacifica Institute where they were expecting a shipment this week and placed an order with them, thinking that I'll get theirs first and can cancel the Amazon order. Of course, I get an email from Amazon saying they shipped my Red Book today and it's too late to cancel it. I am looking on the brightside--I will have TWO copies of the Red Book!!! If they come sealed, I will keep one intact for selling in the future and one for me to devour page by lovely page! I have been waiting so lonnnnng for this :)

Monday, January 18, 2010

Squeaky Wheel and All That

At times I am still amazed at the complete 180 my life has taken at work. One year ago I was pretty sure I was going to quit my job and was taking some vacation days (the first paid vacation day I'd ever had) to de-stress and sort things out. I wanted to use the days before I gave my notice, hehe. And now a year later, I am still on the verge of taking vacation, but not because I am so miserable I can't stand the thought of another day there. Much of this turnaround is due to the hiring of a GM who 1) actually knows what he is doing 2) makes himself available to meet with me and listens to the concerns I have.

Last year I was feeling attacked and people were nitpicking my performance. I felt like no one trusted me to do my job let alone take on more responsibilities. I was often done with my work quickly and spent the remainder of my time surfing the internet. Enter the GM who listened to me when I said "I can do more. I want to be able to shine and I have never had the opportunity to do so." And now is my time.

I have been given the responsibility of calling our customers who wish to cancel their accounts and try to "save" them. Today was my first day of sorting through the pile and I did talk to three clients. I wasn't able to save any of them but it did give me some experience in composing a "script" for the best things to say. Hopefully my nervousness didn't show. I even polled a co-worker after my calls to see if he thought I sounded nervous. He didn't. So yay for that!

For now it is a trial run to see how I do and if I feel it is a good fit for me. As of now, I'm excited to put my customer service skills to the test and see what happens.

Capellini Primavera

I've been trying my hand at some impromptu recipes. That is, trusting myself to make something that tastes good based on what I know without consulting the internet for recipes. A couple of weeks ago I made some garlic-parmesan linguine with some ingredients I had on hand that would not have been used for anything else. (I had bought them solely to make appetizers for NYE.) The angel hair I made tonight was born of that experiment:

oil--1 turn of the pan
butter--2-4 tbs
garlic (2 huge teaspoons of minced garlic)
5 green onions, sliced (white and green parts)
1/2 lg. zucchini, julienned
1/2 orange bell pepper, julienned
2 cans italian-style diced tomatoes (1 drained, one not)
16 oz angel hair pasta
basil and oregano, to taste
shredded parmesan cheese

Make the pasta--you don't need me to tell you how. Heat oil and butter together in pan. Add garlic and all veggies except the canned tomatoes. Add basil and oregano. Just before you drain the pasta, add the tomatoes to your veggie mixture. Toss in the hot, drained pasta to coat. Serve with shredded parmesan cheese.

This was pretty yummy. But next time I think I would add more garlic and the whole zucchini and pepper rather than half of each. I really want to make this with spaghetti squash but my grocery store hasn't had them in stock. Mushrooms and/or shrimp would be great too but I was trying to keep the cost down. As it is, this cost just under $5 to make and I have enough for many lunches this week.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Introspection: 2009 Redux

2009 seemed to fly past me. And that's not to say that I didn't accomplish anything because I most certainly did. Looking back to January of last year, I was contemplating leaving my job because I was so miserable and I was so sure nothing would ever change. I revamped my profile and enrolled in college to take classes to get a bookkeeping certificate. I had found a solution and was being proactive in attaining my goal. And then things took a turn for the worse, and ultimately the better. I had to stand up and fight for myself and proclaim my self-worth when I was clearly being attacked. This time, my work found a solution for me, and things weren't as dreadful and unbearable as they once were. In fact, what was once a swirling vortex of ugliness had become quite cheerful. I decided to stay.

Spring found me taking my first college classes in over a decade. I liked Quickbooks, but accounting on the whole was boring. Who am I kidding? I wasn't born to be an accountant. Enter psychotherapy. I love going to therapy. The decision to do so is singularly my greatest achievement and the thing that makes me most proud. I have learned so much about myself and other people that I do not see the world in the same way anymore. I see the people in my life in a broader, brighter light and the manner in which I gauge new acquaintances is different too. I have seen the change and I want to be a part of that change. More specifically I see how Dr. Carl Gustav Jung hit the nail on the head when he devised a system to help us heal ourselves. I want to be a Jungian psychotherapist. My main goal for 2010 is to find a way to make it happen.

In that same Jungian vein, Summer found me stumbling across the art/therapy of mandala making. I was very stressed with life and work and relationships. I can’t even recall the specifics only that I know it was so. I did some cursory research on mandalas because I had seen them mentioned in Dr. Jung’s book Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious. On a whim, whilst at work, I drew my first mandala on a piece of scrap paper and brought it to therapy the next day. In the following days I purchased a sketchbook in which to keep all of my drawings. Even still I didn’t realize the impact the creation of these freehand medallions would have in my healing. My initial goal was to do one a day and while the frequency has subsided the satisfaction in completing each piece grows.

This Autumn and Winter witnessed changes in myself and loved ones that are indescribable and inspiring. Realizing that the Wheel does indeed turn and that it turns from the Worst to the Wonderful. And knowing that Now is the time to embrace all of this. To embrace what I am striving to do right and if I didn’t know so in the Past, I do know it Now. And with knowledge comes power and responsibility to do better. The light of last night’s Blue Moon cast illumination on my path for this new year: to maintain a path that seeks to be honest and direct while being kind and respectful of other people and their feelings. To maintain boundaries which honor myself and my self-worth and that of those around me.

New arrangements are being composed and the melody is promising--bigger, expansive and welcoming. Hello 2010, I think we’re going to be great friends.