Posts in Sexual Issues
LGBT Pride and the Soul
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LGBT Pride and the Soul

Published by Routledge Psychology, June 2017.

In honor of LGBT Pride Month, author Edward Santana reflects on how the historical 1993 March for Lesbian, Gay, and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation shaped his personal and professional identity, including his recent book, Jung and Sex.

"Jung and Sex emerged from a journey that began many decades ago. As a nervous but ardent young man in 1993, I remember marching alongside some 800,000 other impassioned souls on the streets of Washington in the defiant March for Lesbian, Gay, and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation. The protest was one of the largest public demonstrations for equality in human history and it was one of the most exhilarating days of my early life, which until then had been shadowed by long periods of shame and difficult mental suffering. Crossing the precipice and standing before the cameras of the world was a harrowing experience of liberation. We were protesters against cruel laws and an intolerant culture, and we were attempting to move history forward in our own small way. Beyond the discrimination and isolation many of us faced, the scourge of HIV/AIDS was also decimating our once-resilient communities, and countless innocent lives were lost. I saw then that living as one’s authentic self would require immense courage, a process of individuation that I would later come to appreciate. Like so many at the march, we walked with a solemn regard for the courageous ones who blazed the path before us under more violent conditions. Pride celebrations are about many things—human rights, dignity, love, creative expression, flamboyance—but more deeply they are about gratitude, community, and remembrance. The masses gathered that day to uplift the collective spirit and to celebrate our individual journeys through the flames of oppression. With a conscious eye, I learned about human resilience and the irrepressibility of the soul. That became the spark that brought me to Jung’s work. 

"To lead a psyche-led life, an attunement to the soul, requires living as one’s authentic self in a greater engagement with complexities, not less. Jung, among others, pointed the way for deepening the value of inner life and its many mysteries. Reductionism, however, is oppression—and oppression does not serve the soul. As therapists, our work is to move beyond reductionism, to host the polymorphic spirit and its illuminating complexities. Given the history of the mental health field and its sanctioned discrimination of the LGBTQ community, this is especially critical. Consciously or not, its historical effects remain. Mental health professionals have much work to do to systemically address the long legacies of its founders’ treatment of oppressed communities, and Jung and Sex offers another step in that important direction. The growing diversity of the world demands an expanding openness, and a therapeutic activism that grows from our profession’s experience of witnessing and tending the ills of the world.

"Collectively, we must remain more aware that liberated and open societies are but a small bastion of consciousness in a larger world where billions today live under repressive regimes without basic human rights—unable to love who they love without threat of death, imprisonment, or violence. Discrimination and prejudice are the great unacknowledged mental and physical health issues of our world. They create deep wounds to the individual and collective psyche. Pride, however, is our revolutionary act—a bridge to health and a reflection of the resilient soul, which lives in all of us."

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20 Essential Perspectives from C.G. Jung on Sex and Psychotherapy
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20 Essential Perspectives from C.G. Jung on Sex and Psychotherapy

Published by Routledge Mental Health, September 2017.

Edward Santana, author of Jung and Sex, reflects on the founders of psychotherapy and their critical focus on the mysteries of sexuality more than 100 years ago, as well as its vital role in mental health, both then and now…

"History reflects the harsh reality that many complex sexual symptoms throughout the ages have proven difficult to understand and treat. Humankind also has a terrible legacy of repression and ignorance about sex, the most perplexing and challenging of our basic instincts. Within the psychotherapy profession, this cultural symptom is reflected in the lack of sexual training and education in most of our academic institutions, despite the hunger of many clinical students for these critical topics. These impoverishments are further impacted by the limited amount of focus and offerings on sexual health from many of the profession’s largest associations. Despite the widespread prevalence of sexual concerns and their tremendous cultural significance, human sexuality remains largely imbedded in the unconscious dimensions of society—and unfortunately in the shadow of the profession. 

"More than a hundred years after the birth of psychotherapy, which had its roots firmly planted in rich explorations of sex and sexuality by Freud and others, there has been limited progress as a profession in integrating wider perspectives on sexuality from a diverse range of psychotherapeutic contributors. Despite some advancements, many respected leaders in the field of sex therapy and sex research agree that the current models of treatment require an important re-visioning and more extensive collaboration. My book, Jung and Sex, explores this essential bridging of perspectives and brings forward many of C. G. Jung’s essential contributions.

"Though not widely understood, Jung developed an extremely diverse and comprehensive body of work on sex and sexuality—ideas that offer important perspectives for contemporary psychotherapists. As an early defender of the numinous aspects of sexuality, Jung risked his entire professional career combating limited and reductive ideas about the nature of sexuality and libido. As a victim of childhood sexual abuse and its lingering trauma, he understood the powerful forces and painful extremes of sexuality. The erotic sphere was also at the root of Jung’s early discovery of the complex, which he tracked in psychiatric patients when erotic material suddenly triggered bizarre or defensive reactions. 

"Here are some of Jung’s perspectives on working with sexual concerns (from Jung and Sex, which includes a more extensive and specific primer of depth-oriented approaches to treatment):

  1. One encounters sexuality everywhere; thus in anything one is involved, their sexuality will appear too.
  2. Pressures to conform or deny natural instincts create neuroses and psychological splits between inner needs and outer demands.
  3. Fear of complexes is a deeply-rooted prejudice; complexes are normal and basic parts of the psyche.
  4. Sexual symptoms also reflect universal issues of the culture; many symptoms do not belong exclusively to the patient.
  5. Every important affective event becomes a complex; complexes are signposts to the unconscious.
  6. Denial of instincts and complexes increases power of the unconscious.
  7. Complexes and struggles manifest in places where one is most weak or less adapted.
  8. Individuation and a new level of consciousness are possible through integration of the erotic complexes.
  9. Must expect powerful emotions and difficulties to congregate around sex because it is where adaptation is least complete and where one faces the most challenges to natural expression.
  10. Sexuality can express deep levels of the psyche’s symbolic, archetypal, and mythic elements.
  11. Repellent things belong to the psyche and are natural.
  12. Patient senses something repellent in their own psyche; the shadow is a difficult moral challenge to ego consciousness.
  13. Psyche is purposive and directed; symptoms have meaning.
  14. Psyche cannot be defined by categories or labels.
  15. Illnesses affecting patients are mostly unconscious attempts to cure themselves.
  16. All-simplifying theories serve an injustice to the patient and the soul.
  17. No single method of treatment; not mechanical or procedural work.
  18. Therapists must first know how symptoms help or serve their patients in some unconscious or paradoxical way.
  19. Main concern is being non-reductive toward the psyche; viewing the psyche as complex and teleological.
  20. Treatment goal is integration and rebalancing of inner conflicts through conscious awareness.

"As the world grows vastly in population and diversity, issues of sex and sexuality will only increase in severity and complexity for future clinicians. This is an important time for expanding collaboration among the therapeutic fields and for increasing focus within academic training programs. As Jung indicated, the erotic or sexual sphere is always problematic because it is where adaptation is least complete. To address these challenges, therapists can help lead conscious efforts to look beyond mere surface expressions of sexual difficulties and simple approaches to symptom reduction—to help forge deeper understandings of the great mysteries of sex and sexuality for our patients."

A Primer on C. G. Jung’s Writings and Perspectives on Sexual Concerns and their Treatment
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A Primer on C. G. Jung’s Writings and Perspectives on Sexual Concerns and their Treatment

(These statements are paraphrased directly from Jung's writings on analysis, sex, and sexuality.)

On Human Instincts:

  • One encounters sexuality everywhere; thus in anything one is involved, their sexuality will appear too
  • No instinct rivals the spirit as strongly as the sexual instinct
  • Essential to give instincts their rightful place
  • Pressures to conform or deny natural instincts creates psychological splits between inner needs versus outer demands
  • Natural sexual instincts are reduced to widespread denial and repression
  • Psyche is formidable, hostile, and can even thwart one’s will; sexual instinct is often beyond human ability to expressly control or direct
  • Some psychic contents have an autonomous nature

On the Nature of Complexes:

  • Fear of complexes is a deeply-rooted prejudice; complexes are normal and basic parts of the psyche
  • Complexes are signposts to the unconscious
  • The erotic complex is omnipresent in the psyche, acausal, and paradoxical in nature
  • An erotic complex can dominate at the expense of other psychic material, then everything becomes sexualized and geared toward the sexual purpose
  • Every important affective event becomes a complex
  • The strongest feelings and symptoms are connected with the most powerful complexes
  • Denial of instincts and complexes increases power of the unconscious
  • Complexes and struggles manifest in places where one is most weak or less developed 
  • The presence of an erotic complex is certain even if denied by the patient
  • Must expect powerful emotions and difficulties to congregate around sex because it is where adaptation is least complete and where one faces the most challenges to natural expression

On Individuation:

  • Individuation and a new level of consciousness are possible through integration of the erotic complexes
  • Goal of wholeness is achieved through the union of conscious and unconscious aspects of the psyche
  • Struggle in reaching wholeness is rooted in the conflict between instinctual nature and civilization
  • Must work out the problems of our moral aspects or risk repression

On Cultural Issues:

  • Cultural pressures are to blame for making struggles with sex difficult and universal 
  • Best opportunity for society is for each person to be in possession of one’s own personality
  • Culture must unburden itself from the erotic shame and guilt carried from previous centuries
  • Jung’s own contradictory statements demonstrate the challenges of overcoming cultural and moral biases, which are mostly unconscious

On Sexual Phenomena:

  • Essential to penetrate the deeper layers of the psyche common to all humans
  • Sexual struggles are deep driving forces that seek expression
  • How things are expressed by the psyche are not as important as what needs to be expressed
  • Repellent things belong to the psyche and are natural
  • Must place greater value on the roots of psychological problems than on surface expressions of symptoms
  • Psyche is purposive and directed
  • Should always search for the meaning of psychological phenomena
  • Disregarding psychological phenomena creates consequences, such as a split personality or loss of consciousness
  • Psyche communicates through powerful experiences, images, and symptoms
  • Sexual phenomena have multiple layers and meanings beyond universal or simple explanations
  • Psyche cannot be defined by categories or labels
  • The conscious psyche is always the smaller circle within the greater circle of the unconscious

On Spiritual Dimensions:

  • Spirituality and sexuality cannot be excluded from each other 
  • Sexuality is a creative power equal to the spirit
  • Grave consequences for ignoring the spiritual side of sex; one becomes unconsciously driven by instinct and it hinders individuation and development
  • Sexuality has numinous aspects
  • Numinous experiences simultaneously elevate and humiliate
  • Concerned with engaging the numinous not with the treatment of neuroses; the numinous ultimately helps release one from the curse of pathology
  • Sexuality is both divine and hellish; it compels one to experience forces beyond ordinary domains

On Treatment of:

  • Illnesses affecting patients are mostly unconscious attempts to cure themselves
  • Analytic approach is symbolistic
  • All-simplifying theories serve an injustice to the patient and the soul
  • No single theory to explain the human psyche; no general criterion of judgment
  • There is no single method of treatment; it is not mechanical or procedural work
  • Profound experiences and conflicts, like sexual ones, evoke deep parts of the psyche, which explains the cautionary approach to engaging sexual issues in therapy
  • One can thrive and feel harmony only when instinct and spirit are balanced, otherwise imbalance creates one-sidedness and veers one toward neuroses or pathology
  • The main concern in treatment is being non-reductive toward the psyche; viewing the psyche as complex
  • There is a breaking point for the suppression of instincts that creates a split or neurotic individual, which is not usually conscious and requires support for realization and integration
  • Shadow aspects might produce violent responses from conscious positions of patients
  • The treatment goal is integration and rebalancing of inner conflicts through conscious awareness
  • Every situation requires the context of the individual
  • Expect high patient resistance, difficulty of treatment, and prevalence of sexual material; the unconscious erects significant barriers to treatment
  • Most patients are highly resistant to disclosure and create insurmountable obstacles to exploration
  • The patient senses something repellent in their own psyche; the shadow is a difficult moral challenge to ego consciousness
  • This work places extreme difficulties on the patient and the therapist; therapy is painful and challenging to both
  • Analyst or therapist must be appropriately trained and prepared by examining their own psychic contents
  • First duty is to keep close to the patient’s psychic material and not allow prejudice and subjectivity to distort emerging psychological phenomena
  • Important for therapists to open themselves to deeper and unknown experiences
  • A patient’s deviation into sex is sometimes used to escape one’s true problems
  • Therapists must first know how symptoms help and serve patients
  • Can never know beforehand what is what
  • Sexual issues may not have direct sexual aspect or direct means of treatment
  • Avoid attitude of a missionary out to cure patients and eradicate symptoms
  • Requires emerging crystallization of goals and a direction originating from the patient
  • Requires conscious attitude of cooperation and dialogue or the unconscious can be driven into opposition
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Implications of a Depth Psychological Approach for Patients

Potential Benefits:

  • Reduce the labeling of sexual dysfunctions and the pathology of categorically defined symptoms 
  • Help patients view their symptoms as potentially deeper aspects of the psyche or soul; remove stigmatizing perspectives regarding the surface expressions of psychopathology
  • Open up possibilities for viewing symptoms as important aspects of psychic expression calling for healing or attention from the unconscious 
  • Provide a view of the numinous or spiritual aspects in the psyche expressed through sexual symptoms
  • Assist development and growth through the process of integration and individuation by becoming conscious of inner struggles and conflicts raging within 
  • Develop understanding of deeper cultural and universal layers of the psychic situation 
  • Provide an approach to understanding the root causes of sexual issues that are beyond symptomatic appearances 
  • Develop greater awareness and consciousness of self and spiritual dimensions
  • Engage in mysteries of sexual expressions and desires by viewing them through wider perspectives
  • Recognize how diverse aspects belong on a spectrum of human complexity 
  • Work toward integration with the shadow and unwanted aspects to foster a greater sense of wholeness
  • Understand how disunity of the self creates psychic suffering and split personalities or dissociation
  • Potentially reduce reliance on pharmaceutical solutions or medical interventions
  • Provide individualized treatment approaches tailored to patients’ unique psychological positions
  • Offer archetypal, imaginal, and mythological perspectives to help patients understand layers of the psyche and to add collective context to the repellant or unknown elements of the psyche
  • Allow more room to explore a range of potential affective causes and how the unconscious is purposive and directed in its expressions of suffering

Potential Challenges:

  • Some might not be ready for or welcome the challenges of the depth approach 
  • Some patients might wrestle with a lack of answers or the uncertainty of a direction or method, which can increase frustration and impatience with the process
  • Difficulty coping with their own challenging psychic material, which creates feelings of confusion and more entanglement with the unknown
  • Experiencing greater vulnerability and feeling exposed on a level for which one’s conscious mind or ego is unprepared
  • Making the problem feel worse and more complex than originally thought 
  • Havingresistances and avoidance of sexual issues brought into awareness
  • Facing the possibility of intensifying a patient’s resistance, which drives the unconscious into greater opposition and fuels increased symptoms
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Get the PDF version here: Primer on C. G. Jung’s Writings on Sexual Concerns and their Treatment

 

Jung and Sex: Re-visioning the Treatment of Sexual Issues, Edward Santana, Ph.D.

Available at Amazon:  https://amzn.com/1138919152