Published in the Journal of Analytical Psychology, 1996
Physics & Astronomy Department
J. Marvin Spiegelman
Jungian Analyst Studio City, California
To clarify these creative possibilities, we would have to have a group of physicists who are willing to take on a deep Jungian analysis–not because we want to rule them or influence them–simply that they learn. And then we would have to have a few Jungian analysts who would take the trouble to study physics. I think that’s what first would have to be done, so that both knew really deeply the other subject.
Marie-Louise von Franz (von Franz 1992, p. 162)
Unfortunately, we have not fully embodied the ideal suggested by von Franz in the opening quotation. Nevertheless, we have moved in the direction she proposes. Our discussion of the therapeutic interaction results from the shared attempt of a senior Jungian analyst (JMS) and a physicist (VM) to understand the reciprocal action between analyst and analysand engaged in what we describe below as “mutual process,” and “interactive field.” Both the observed psychological phenomenology and the physics of fields inspire our understanding. Although our suggestions for evolving the therapeutic interaction toward mutual process are natural outgrowths of classical Jungian theory and practice, the interaction we describe involves richer possibilities than are usually reported about the therapeutic encounter.
As we will show, the attention to awakened bodily reactions and subtle body energies in both the analysand and analyst, during sessions, and the use of joint active imagination, raise fundamental questions about the relation of psyche to soma and analyst to analysand. Ideas from the physics of fields are particularly well-suited for understanding the phenomena and moving toward answers to some fundamental questions posed.
We fully appreciate the difficulty of bringing ideas from physics to bear upon the complexities embodied in the therapeutic relationship. In healing the wounds of the soul we first build an hermetic vessel, the vas hermeticum, out of trust, honesty, compassion, and openness. Within this vessel is expressed the connectedness of Eros–between the analyst and the analysand and between them and the larger, encompassing source of healing. Perhaps ideas from physics can increase our understanding of the therapeutic relationship without violating this inter-subjective mystery. We first discuss the notions of mutual process and interactive field by placing them in the historical evolution of the therapeutic encounter.
II. Four Levels of Therapy
Early is his development of psychoanalysis, Freud became acutely aware of the impact of the patient’s projections upon the analyst. He attempted to elicit these projections and use them to illuminate the infantile fantasies from the unconscious, and yet mitigate their impact upon the analyst. He called this process the working through of the transference. On the analyst’s side, objectivity and detachment were the bywords, with asymmetry of connection the desideratum. In his “Postscript to the Question of lay analysis” Freud (Freud 1927, p. 257) says:
For it is not greatly to the advantage of patients if their physician’s therapeutic interest has too marked an emotional emphasis. They are best helped if he carries out his task coolly and keeping as closely as possible to the rules.
Over the century, however, psychoanalytic circles generally recognized that the mutual impact of analyst and analysand was not only unavoidable but was useful in the healing process. This recognition produced such concepts as projective identification and the active embracing of counter-transference reactions to understand what was going on in the patient. This has been especially true in Kleinian and Object-Relations work.
It was Jung who soon realized that not only is mutual transference a critical part of the work, but that the analyst’s effect on the analysand is proportional to that of the latter upon him or herself. As Jung says (Jung 1954a, p. 71):
For, twist and turn the matter as we may, the relation between doctor and patient remains a personal one within the impersonal framework of the professional treatment. By no device can the treatment be anything but the product of mutual influence, in which the whole being of the doctor, as well as that of his patient plays its part. . . . . For two personalities to meet is like mixing two different substances: if there is any combination at all, both are transformed.
This realization of “mutual influence” and that “both are transformed” raised the question of whether the therapeutic relation should really be asymmetrical. C. A. Meier, in a seminal paper (Meier 1959), advanced the hypothesis that the analysis became symmetrical when the analyst learned ever more about the partner, thereby advancing the “cut” of consciousness into the “analytic object.” With this increasing knowledge and intimacy it was no longer possible to assess to whom a transference content “belonged.” In truth, the analyst and analysand jointly constellated a “third,” and this was the collective unconscious itself, its archetypal contents transcending those of the personal mother, father, etc.
Following upon Jung’s and Meier’s formulations, Spiegelman, in a series of papers beginning with a contribution to Meier’s Festschrift in 1965, has been advancing an understanding of what he came to call mutual process (Spiegelman 1965, 1980, 1991, 1995). Parallel with this development, the concept of the interactive field has been adumbrated, particularly by Schwartz-Salant (Schwartz-Salant 1988, 1992), although the original use of the field in connection with the collective unconscious was suggested by von Franz (von Franz 1980, p. 80). The mutuality of the process refers to both analyst and analysand jointly and simultaneously engaging the unconscious activated through their interaction.
The two concepts of mutual process and interactive field are not synonymous, but tend to be interrelated. As we will show, the more mutual the process, the more the interactive field manifests. Spiegelman (Spiegelman 1993, pp. 205-208), classified the degree to which mutual process occurs in four categories of increasing consciousness of mutuality in the relation to the unconscious and thus increasing expressions of the interactive field. We briefly summarize that classification here.
The first category is that of traditional analysis, the type von Franz described (when she supervised JMS) as “womb analysis.” In this situation, the analysis is like a cave or womb, a vessel in which the analysand can safely explore and relate to the unconscious, while the analyst provides a protective and supportive environment for it. Much classical psychoanalysis is of this nature. A Jungian case example (by JMS, supervised by von Franz), is of a doctoral student at the University of Zürich, who actually painted such a picture at the outset of his analysis. He continued to paint and draw his own process under the caring and watchful eye of the budding analyst who hardly spoke the German language in which the work was done! Nevertheless, this maternal container contributed mightily to the therapeutic effect.
Another example, in the United States, was that of a creative writer with considerable previous analysis who used the analytic hour to work, almost by himself, with associations to dreams and active imagination. The analyst’s task was largely to provide comments on dreams, only occasionally remarking about what was happening in their relationship. Although the relation was essentially asymmetrical and traditional, an occasional image sustained the transference–a giant lingam of light between the two partners. In this situation, little or no mutual process occurred, yet an interactive field condition did occasionally arise.
By interactive field condition we mean the two parties are embedded in an imaginally perceived whole situation. They experience the unconscious or archetypes both “around” and “between” them, as well as “within” them–an encompassing, infusing, and mutually interactive field. This occurs when the collective unconscious is activated or, as the word is sometimes used, “constellated,” in the therapeutic interaction. We do not use the term interactive field for the relation of one person with the unconscious, but reserve it for describing the interaction two or more persons simultaneously have with the collective unconscious. Fields can certainly be constellated when one is alone, e. g. active imagination or in connection with nature and numinous objects, but this requires a separate discussion.
The second category, “womb-interaction,” shows more conscious attention to the relationship. This is the mode frequently experienced by those who focus upon projective identification, projection, and the interpreting of dreams, behavior, psychodynamics, and the transference seen in the traditional sense. In short, it is the general activity engaged in by analysts of most persuasions when emphasizing transference-counter transference reactions. Examples from case studies routinely occur in the journals of the respective schools.
The third category, that of mutual process proper, has a variety of conditions and examples, characterized by frequent and sometimes intense reference to what is happening in the analytic relationship. This can be the typical parent-child situation or other archetypal relation, like those depicted in Jung’s diagram, in his “Psychology of the Transference” (Jung 1954b), in which analyst and analysand are “accompanied,” by anima and animus or other archetypal figures arising from the unconscious. As we discuss below, these figures have their own relationship to both parties. Generally, in this kind of mutual process there is an active consideration and verbalization of what is happening, sometimes from moment to moment. This form of interaction sometimes develops into joint active imagination. The distinguishing feature of this type of interaction is the mutuality between partners. The “third,” as the unconscious shared between them, is constellated and the mercurial play of the opposites is simultaneously experienced in the relationship and made conscious. The alchemical model developed in Jung’s (Jung 1954b) interpretation of the transference is the prototype. More recent followers have gone further by verbalizing and articulating such process with the analysand while they occur. “Womb-interaction is probably the mode experienced frequently by those focusing upon projective identification.
The fourth category includes all of the regular mutual process conditions, sketched above, and often includes bodily experiences in the head, chest, diaphragm, etc., including subtle body energies suggesting the various chakras or sephiroth. In addition, one often experiences acausal synchronistic events in such encounters and exchanges. For example, a former priest suffered for some years from serious depression and anxiety not alleviated in a previous analysis. After many months of work and little positive results, despite interesting dreams that referred back to his initial vocation and loss of connection with the divine, JMS revealed to him a fantasy he had during the previous few sessions. This involved the image of analyst and analysand praying together before a Dürer print in the room, of Christ Crowned with Thorns (hung between a brilliant painting of Hassidim dancing and another of a magician with doves). The patient immediately wanted to do this concretely and both partners knelt and prayed. As they knelt there, shoulder to shoulder, JMS felt a Christlike presence, with an arm on each of their shoulders. When he reported this to the patient, the latter responded, amazed, that he had felt this, too. JMS then had the strong impression that the analysand was much larger than himself, although they were physically about the same size. He reported this too. The analysand, having the same impression, knelt lower, feeling he was inflated, whereupon JMS exclaimed, “No! Not at all!” The analysand, after all, was truly much larger than the analyst within a Christian manifestation of the divine and it was exactly right that he acknowledge this. The analysand then wept with joy and the depression lifted. Henceforth, the analysand gradually reconnected with his inner priestly vocation, via a series of remarkable dreams. In this joint prayer experience both mutuality and an interactive field condition occurred along with some subtle body experiences, but this concatenation did not continue for most of the later sessions, in which asymmetry returned.
All these varieties of mutual process can change back and forth, from one category to another. There is usually a period of intense “womb” work, accompanied or followed by an important realization and transformation in an interactive field-condition, and then a reversion to slow, traditional work, with dreams, fantasies, etc., leading to another striking appearance of the collective unconscious. In other words, there is the work “within,” which the analysand does either at home or in the office, with the analyst as participant observer, and then they constellate an archetypal connection–an interactive field–in which the collective unconscious is now “between” the two partners, or encompassing them.
These four categories of increasing mutuality correlate to the increasing perception of the interactive field condition in the analytic encounter, but interactive fields play different roles in each category. The first type, that of the womb analysis, may also include a powerful, but unspoken, experience of the interactive field of the Mother-child archetype, in which both are embedded, even with experience of subtle-body energies, but they usually neither remark upon this fact nor work on it. It may actually be occurring in the unconscious without the parties registering it at all, until much later or never.
Indeed, this less explicit use of the field idea occurs in Jung and traditional work with the transference. The patient’s projective contents affect the analyst but he works on them quietly, by himself. Through working on his unexpressed counter-transference the analyst helps the patient toward healing. As Meier points out, since therapy is a totalistic system, the analyst’s capacity to sustain and integrate the difficult content himself induces a change in the system and thereby helps the patient. The unspoken metaphor for this comes from the frequently referred to story by Richard Wilhelm, who experienced a Rainmaker in a Chinese village who “brought rain,” not by any magic or incantations, but just by meditating within the disturbed and inharmonious conditions of the village. When he managed to recover his own harmony, was in Tao, then, as he said, “Naturally, it rained.” (For discussion of the Rainmaker Model see (Spiegelman 1980)).
The Rainmaker model, we think, is used by Meier and often embraced by Jung. It is also close to the traditional method favored in the original psychoanalytic circles, tempered in the Jungian domain by attention to the numinous or the religious attitude toward contents of the collective unconscious. We connect this method with the introverted condition of focusing upon an inner relationship to the unconscious. Since it is not explicitly an interaction between two persons mediated by the collective unconscious, this is not the interactive field we are stressing here.
Later psychoanalysis and those therapies functioning in extroverted countries such as the United States, required more overt attention to the transference, so they discussed the interactions in light of the patient’s dynamics. Such a shift in focus–from an exclusively inward relationship to the unconscious to a shared relationship–is also in accord with the attitude of finding the central value in relationship itself, a view traditionally connected with women, or at least the archetypal feminine. Is this a sign of the shift in consciousness from the masculine or patriarchal values in ascendance, to those in which we equally attend to the matriarchal or feminine values? Recall the admonition, in early Christianity, that the divine, or Jesus, is present when “two or three gather in My name.” A Protestant minister once said that this number of two or three was the maximum, in his experience, where Jesus might have a chance of appearing!
We suggest it is useful to add to the Rainmaker Model (always necessary in any deep analytic work) a second one we call the mutual process or alchemical model, in which we consciously and frequently address the interactions between analyst and analysand. We reserve the term of full mutual process for type four. JMS describes mutual process of types three and four as one in which he is carefully attentive during an analytic session to what is happening, both “within” and “among.” The goal is to stay simultaneously attuned with his “left hand” to the unconscious and with his “right hand” to “minding the store”–maintaining the parenting aspect and containing boundaries for the work (Spiegelman 1988), and using Kabbalistic imagery in the play of the opposites (Spiegelman 1995).
With such dual attention, there generally emerges the phenomenology many analysts address in various ways and understand as projection or projective identification. Many analysts have noted how the analytic work effects their energy–from the loss of energy in boredom, to depression, excitement, etc. Others, going further, use this energy experience as an indication of the projections going on (projective identification), with its causal explanatory model (“He put his rage into me . . . “etc.) It might be more parsimonious, as we hope to show, to consider these interactions as ever-deeper manifestations of an interactive field. What such energy is and how it plays out in the work needs to be investigated.
Before considering the nature and function of the energy exchanges going on in the work, it is useful to take up the issues of the imaginal and bodily expressions of the unconscious. As Schwartz-Salant has usefully pointed out (Schwartz-Salant 1989, Ch. V), Jung made early use of the related concepts of Psychic Unconscious and Somatic Unconscious (Jung 1934-39).
Jung’s (Jung 1978c) articulated his “psychological standpoint” that admits the primacy of the psyche. However, as Jung goes to great lengths to show in “On the Nature of the Psyche,” the psyche is bounded on one end of the spectrum by inscrutable matter and at the other end by a transcendental mental principle, spirit, which is equally unknowable (Jung 1978a, pp. 207-216). In analytic work we are continuously oscillating between the archetypal realm of meaning on one hand and the bodily sensations and responses to our work on the other. Each class of experience expresses the Psychic Unconscious and the Somatic Unconscious respectively, fully realizing along with Jung that there is “nothing that is directly experienced except the mind itself.” (Jung 1978c, p. 327)
The Psychic Unconscious expresses itself in those images and fantasies that originate in the unconscious. The Somatic Unconscious, however, expresses itself in those sensations and experiences arising from the body. These bodily or somatic symptoms are other than those occurring from normal bodily activity, but have a link to emotional conditions. Common examples are headaches, palpitations, stomach aches, etc. As we know, the emotions, via the autonomic nervous system, are central in linking psyche and soma. We believe it is useful to consider these two types of unconscious as expressions of Jung’s idea of the continuum and interaction between spirit and matter, soul and body, with the descent from the ultraviolet end of the spectrum to the infrared (Jung 1978a). The ultraviolet links psyche with the spiritual aspect of the instinct (archetypal images) while the infrared links psyche with bodily expressions of instinct and matter. Image and bodily experience are thus linked together and yet separate, as we find in analytic work.
It might also be useful to consider the analytic experience of bodily energies being activated, the symptoms that occur in sessions (Spiegelman 1991), as a manifestation of the Somatic Unconscious. Experience of working with the transference in the mutual process manner results in both kinds of effects, somatic and imaginal. Schwartz-Salant (Schwartz-Salant 1989), has been especially articulate in describing this kind of work, invoking the alchemical formula of Maria Prophetissa, among others, and noting that the image of the couple is frequently manifested. Whether we remain with a generalized “third” appearing in the work (the unconscious itself “belonging” to both parties), or differentiate this into a couple, an interactive field clearly manifests. The participants simultaneously experience the interactive field within themselves, or as between them, or as an inner occurrence.
Reflection suggests that the interplay of psychic and somatic is just what the work toward union and totality entails. Mind and body, image and behavior, within and among, are all aspects of the opposites that the participants engage in, as a kind of alchemical sibling pair–Mercurius, as Jung spoke of it. They also frequently experience the subtle body here. The understanding of the subtle-body as a manifestation of the somatic unconscious (as is seen by Schwartz-Salant), or as a union of unconscious with consciousness (as seen by JMS) is less important than the realization that the work involves such processes. Consequently, those apparently mysterious events–often felt as telepathic by some analysts–occur when the analyst, for example, registers the headache or anxiety felt by the patient before the latter has said anything about it. As we suggest below, rather than considering these as causal telepathic phenomena it may be better to understand them as acausal instantiations of meaning–as synchronistic.
Spiegelman (Spiegelman 1995) also calls attention to the subtle-body energies awakened in deep analytic work. They clearly connect with the kinds of experiences reported in kundalini meditation, in Kabbalistic work with energies, and in the experience of the energy called “orgone” by Wilhelm Reich in the deeper body therapies. These energies are not merely the expression of normal bodily functions, but occur after significant kinds of spiritual and bodily work and in the relaxation period following them. Perhaps, as Reich had hoped, a redefinition of libido may ultimately be possible. It is less certain whether this can be a fully biological concept, as he believed, or whether it is one indirectly connected with bios, and partaking of the latter when infused with psychic components.
Along with these conscious/unconscious questions, come the role of causality and acausality in these processes. Ideas of projective identification use causal explanations, whereas synchronistic experiences are acausal. Obviously both processes are at work, but at which level and in which way are not yet clear. With these questions in mind we turn to the findings of physics, which may further our understanding of these psychological problems.
III. Characterizing Levels One and Two with Classical Fields
1. Classical Fields in Physics
In the early fifteenth century, René Descartes and others developed the mechanical model of the physical universe that consisted of impartible atoms racing around in the void. In this view all forces were contact forces caused by particle collisions. It seemed natural to believe that, as in our normal sensory experience, objects must touch to exert force on each other. In the late seventeenth century, Isaac Newton’s formulation of the gravitation interaction caused serious conceptual problems for this mechanical view of nature. Although there was no disputing the power, elegance, and accuracy of his formulation, it was nearly impossible to understand gravity as a contact force. Gravity seemed to work through a pure vacuum, a real action-at-a-distance, an idea utterly repellent to such thinkers of that era as Bishop George Berkeley and many others.
Fortunately, by the nineteenth century the notion of a field became the preferred way of understanding such interactions as gravity and electromagnetism. In this view, rather than the sun and earth gravitationally interacting through empty space, we understand that the sun generates a field, an actual modification of the space surrounding the sun. This modification of space, this field, contains energy and exerts forces on bodies like the planets or asteroids placed in it. The conceptually vexing notion of action-at-a-distance is replaced by the field–an invisible entity mediating the force between the sun and earth. The earth “senses” the field only in its immediate vicinity and responds to that. Simultaneously, the earth generates its field to which the sun responds. There is no more action-at-a-distance, but there is mutual interaction through the field. Or take an electromagnetic example. A pair of protons generate electric fields around themselves that mediate their mutual repulsion. An individual proton only responds to the electric field in its immediate vicinity.
Modern physics now considers classical fields as critically important models for understanding nature. Although the fields are not visible, they can be easily represented in visual diagrams. They are substantial, since fields carry energy and momentum and have measurable effects. Despite their invisibility, fields have become as real and substantial, with the same ontic status, as the particles they effect. In other words, classical particles and fields are equally substantial and real entities existing in spacetime.
Even at this uncomplicated level, classical fields are appropriate metaphors for the action of the unconscious on consciousness. Take, for example, the gravitational field. It is invisible, pervades all space, and is always effective, even if we are not actively aware of it. Our physical presence also has an influence on the earth. Similarly the unconscious is invisible, pervasive, and continuously influencing consciousness, even without our knowledge of the process. In turn, our conscious position effects the unconscious. As we will see, well beyond this minor application, the field concept has descriptive power in delineating the interaction of the unconscious with consciousness.
All classical fields are causal, local, and based upon the idea of independent existence. By causal we mean that the field always interacts in a completely predictable way when the same body is placed in it in the same way. Identical initial conditions always give rise to the same interaction and subsequent system evolution. For example, if you repeatedly place an object with a given velocity and position in the same gravitational field, the identical orbit always results. Local means that any changes in the field or the system it characterizes must propagate at less than or equal to the speed of light. For example, if a giant cosmic hand suddenly plucked the sun from the sky, the gravitational field at the earth’s location would not reflect this change for approximately eight minutes–the time it takes for light to travel from the sun to the earth. All classical physics is based on the assumption that the interacting particles and fields are independently existent, that is they have an autonomy, separateness, or an inherent existence that is fundamentally free from interactions and conditions. For example, we may conceptually remove a particle from the interacting field and consider either the particle or the field independently. In other words, the relations are much less real or fundamental than the independent existence or autonomy of classical objects.
2. Conditions for Classical Field-Like Phenomena in Levels One and Two
In Jungian analysis there is usually an initial period of reductive analysis, in which present problems or psychodynamics are reduced to past psychological experience. Although all four levels of therapy discussed above may employ reductive analysis, our emphasis here is its use in levels one and two. For a too simple example: one’s anger toward those in authority is caused by father’s harsh treatment in childhood. The beginning of dealing with this problem is often a reductive delineation, an articulation of the anger and its causes. Although this analysis makes reference to the unconscious, at this stage the analysis is largely causal–a particular complex is understood to invariably cause a certain emotional reaction.
To clarify this point refer to Figure 1, which is a slight generalization of the famous four-fold diagram Jung developed in his essay “The Psychology of the Transference.” The major difference between our diagram and Jung’s is that we have removed gender references. To continue our simplistic example: the analyst explores the analysand’s relationship with his father. This two way conscious interaction is represented by the double-headed arrow (a). The questioning activates the analysand’s personal unconscious and he is overtaken by feelings of anger and shame–represented by the double-headed arrow (c). The analysand unconsciously projects aspects of the father complex on the analyst–double-headed arrow (d). The analyst becomes aware of intuitions about the analysand by accessing his unconscious–arrow (b). The analyst may also project something like ungrateful son on the analysand–arrow (f). Finally, there may be some unconscious participation mystique between analyst and patient indicated by (e).
Of course, all these interactions are extremely difficult to disentangle in practice, since as Jung pointed out they are simultaneously present. Nevertheless, there are times when it is clear that the interaction is dominated by one or a few of these modes. For our present purposes we have stressed the causal nature of the interaction. For example, the analyst questioning the analysand, arrow (a), causes the analysand to ponder his relationship with his father, which in turn causes the analysand to contact his father complex, arrow (c), which in turn causes the analysand’s anger, projection on the analyst, and so on.
A more subtle underlying assumption here than causality is that the analyst, analysand, and the complexes are all relatively autonomous or independently existent. The analyst has a personality distinct and independent from that of the analysand. The analysand’s ego can be considered independently from his complexes, from the analyst, and so forth. Of course, the assumption of separateness or independent existence in this reductive-rational-causal method is thrown into question if there is a significant participation mystique interaction, arrow (e).
Although our example is necessarily too simple, it is well known that such reductive analysis can be extremely effective and is often taken up again at even advanced stages of the individuation process. Nevertheless, its primary locus of operation is the personal unconscious, although there is never an absolutely clear demarcation between purely personal material and more archetypal contents.
3. Classical Field-Like Phenomena in Levels One and Two
Let us continue the example of the father complex and first focus on the bodily phenomenology of the interactions. Soon after the analyst begins questioning the analysand about his relationship to his father the analyst notices the analysand’s face flushing or twitching. The analyst may bring this fact to the analysand’s attention. Although this “mirroring” is done on the conscious level along arrow (a), it serves in part to connect the analysand to his inner world along arrow (c). A more unconscious example of mirroring can occur along the following lines. The analyst senses tension between his own shoulder blades and is reasonably sure, because of his familiarity with his own unconscious and awareness of how this interaction is affecting him along arrow (b), that it is not merely his own complexes being activated. Let’s assume that this awareness of tension came through some combination of unconscious channels (d) and (e). The analyst then tells the analysand about the tension he feels between his shoulder blades. In our ideal example, the analysand realizes that he experiences this same tension when he gets into some power struggle with an authority. The analysand thereby increases his awareness of the functioning of channels (c) and (d). It may also turn out that the analyst then becomes aware of how he is projecting his disappointments and frustrations about his own son on the analysand–his reactions were not so pure after all. Then in the spirit of mutual process, the analyst may openly share this with the analysand and their mutual understanding of each other and themselves deepens.
Although the example is contrived, we hope it suggests how reductive analysis emphasizes consciousness, the personal unconscious, and how they causally affect both parties. Consistent with the needs of the analysand, the analyst may share his inner responses, limitations, and embarrassments, whether they are bodily symptoms or feelings. This is done even if such admissions are at the expense of the usual idea of the analyst as all-knowing healer–a projection of no lasting value. Naturally, such self-disclosure by the analyst is not a routine matter. What is usefully disclosed in analyst-analysand interactions are the experiences of the analyst in relation to the patient, which can then be of use to the latter, at least as indicating impact (See Spiegelman 1988, 1991, 1993).
Many persons working in depth psychology use the term, “field,” in a variety of ways to characterize powerful interactions between the analyst and analysand. However, there is little agreement on what, if anything, the term actually means. Nevertheless, there does seem to be a widely current intuition that some notion of field genuinely characterizes this type of interaction. We conjecture that when persons powerfully interact in the therapeutic mode as sketched above, then we become aware of the unconscious acting like a classical field–invisible, pervasive, containing, causal, and mutually effective. Naturally, since the unconscious transcends the categories of space and time, it is not sitting out in space like the gravitational field of the earth waiting for the perceptive analyst to sense it. It may be closer to say that we are constellating, instantiating, or concretizing the unconscious and it is experienced as a classical field. On the other hand, one could easily argue that the field is merely a convenient way of symbolizing powerful therapeutic interactions and that we should not literalize this experience by postulating a mediating physical field. At this stage this is a viable argument. We return to this important point toward the end of this paper.
Next we move on to discuss even more dramatic and controversial suggestions about the therapeutic interaction. This type of interaction requires that we employ some ideas from quantum fields which we now briefly sketch.
IV. Characterizing Mutual Process with Quantum Fields
1. Quantum Fields in Physics
The advent of quantum mechanics in the late 1920’s not only revolutionized physics, but it greatly expanded our notion of fields. Now we understand quantum fields as not existing physically in spacetime the way a classical gravitational or electromagnetic field does. Instead, quantum fields are potentials for manifestations in spacetime, which are not directly measurable. Such nonspatial and nontemporal quantum fields provide us with probabilities for particles manifesting in spacetime. Although quantum fields share many mathematical properties with classical fields they are of a much more abstract order of being, especially because, unlike classical fields, they are neither in spacetime nor directly measurable.
Probability occurs in quantum mechanics at a new and fundamental level, which many, such as Einstein, find deeply disturbing. There had long been probabilistic theories in physics before the advent of quantum mechanics. For example, in the classical analysis of an ideal gas, one of the early successes of thermodynamics, we concentrate upon the probability distribution for different particle velocities. It is not that the individual gas particles do not have definite positions and velocities, it is just that we do not have access to that level of detail. Rather, we only have statistical information about the distribution of velocities from which we deduce the properties of ideal gases. Here probability is an expression of our ignorance of the details.
In contrast, in quantum mechanics probability is introduced at a much more fundamental level. The quantum particles simply do not have definite positions and velocities and probability statements are all that we can make. It is not that we are ignorant of the details, but that there are no details. At this level nature is inherently indeterminate and probability is an expression of its true indeterminate being. In other words, quantum probability expresses the ontic indeterminacy of physical systems, not our ignorance of the fine details.
Because of this fundamental indeterminacy nature is acausal–there is no well-defined cause or causes for a particular event. For example, there is no particular cause for the decay of given radioactive nuclei. Although nature clearly reveals enormously varied and rich structures, there are no well-defined causes for individual occurrences at the quantum level.
Without a doubt, this introduction of acausality at such a fundamental level is an enormous shift in intellectual history. According to quantum theory, the most successful theory in history, we must now abandon our servitude to strict causality, the idea that all events have some well-defined set of causes and that the same initial conditions always generate the same effects. Now we must learn to appreciate that although nature is structured and lawful, it is acausal–the same initial conditions do not always generate the same effects. There are no well-defined causes for individual quantum events. This discovery inspired Jung when he learned about it through his long friendship with Wolfgang Pauli. It provided intellectual support for the introduction of his idea of synchronicity as acausal connection through meaning of inner psychic states with outer events. Jung repeatedly stressed that the inner psychic state (for example, the famous dream of the scarab beetle) does not cause the outer material event (the beetle flying through the window) nor vice versa. He wanted to supplement the notion of causality, so familiar from ordinary thought and classical physics, with the acausal principle of synchronicity, similar to the way acausality in quantum mechanics supplements causality in classical physics.
So quantum fields are invisible, nonspatial, nontemporal, probabilities for acausal manifestation. They therefore share many characteristics with archetypes. For example, in his synchronicity essay Jung advises us to resist the temptation to see the archetypes as causative agents in synchronicity. He says, “The archetype represents psychic probability, . . . .” (Italics are Jung’s (Jung 1978b, p. 515). Although the archetype provides the fundamental meaning or intellectual structure for a synchronistic event, it is not causative of either the inner or outer correlated events.
More puzzling to the classical physicist–who lives in the heart of even the best quantum physicists like an inferior function or dark brother–than the acausal nature of quantum fields is its nonlocal nature. This property has been dramatically and convincingly revealed in the Bell Inequality experiments of the last two decades. We have previously discussed the implications of nonlocality in quantum mechanics for understanding synchronicity (Mansfield and Spiegelman 1989). Here it suffices to describe briefly the idea of nonlocality.
Nonlocality is the inability to localize a system in a given region of space and time. Stated positively, there are well-studied physical systems that show instantaneous interconnections or correlations among their parts–true instantaneous action-at-a-distance. For example, consider two widely separated regions, A and B, shown in Figure 2. In nonlocal phenomena what happens in region A instantaneously influences what occurs in region B and vice versa. Surprisingly, this instantaneous interaction or dependency occurs without any information or energy exchange between regions A and B. The effect occurs without a definite cause–a truly acausal connection. For this reason alone, we cannot use nonlocality to develop a faster than light signaling scheme. Nevertheless, the effects are strong and do not weaken with the distance between regions A and B. This degree of interdependence between separate parts of a system has no counterpart in classical physics. Nevertheless, nonlocality has been clearly revealed in experiments that are independent of the present formulation of quantum mechanics. This means that any future theory of nature must embody this principle.
Our implicit belief in the independent existence of events in regions A and B greatly contributes to the sense of mystery in nonlocality. We unconsciously cling to the idea that the events in the two regions really are fundamentally separate and independent from each other. This false belief in their mutually independent existence then gives rise to the demand that we understand this interconnectedness in terms of effects propagating faster than the speed of light. Relativity physics, however, rules out such propagation. Instead, the view we have come to appreciate in the last two decades is that nonlocal quantum fields are expressing a profound level of mutual interconnectedness and interdependence, a level impossible to understand if we cling to the old notion of independently existent objects causally inter-acting. In other words, classical, local fields cannot account for quantum interdependence. The assimilation of this revolutionary idea into collective consciousness will take time and without doubt have extraordinarily far-reaching consequences.
Most people who study the philosophic foundations of quantum mechanics agree that nonlocality is more mysterious than the dependency of system properties on the act of observation–illustrated in the famous wave-particle complementarity. They reason that in any measurement there must be some interaction with the system measured. In classical physics, because the systems are macroscopic, this interaction can be neglected. For example, when we precisely measure the Moon’s distance from the Earth by timing how long a radar signal takes to be reflected from its surface, the reflected signal does not change the Moon’s orbit. In contrast, quantum mechanical measurements involve energy exchanges comparable to the energy of the object measured. Because of these significant energy exchanges, measurement takes on a much more central role in quantum mechanics.
Depth psychology faces a similar “measurement” problem. In investigating unconscious contents, we inevitably transform them in the process. To expose a previously unconscious projection, for example, is to transform radically the thing known, a process central to individuation.
Let us summarize this subsection on quantum fields. They are invisible, nonspatial, nontemporal potentials or probabilities for manifestation. The processes governed by them are acausal in that they lack definite causes for particular events. Finally, the quantum fields are nonlocal and thereby express the deep interconnectedness and mutual interdependence of quantum systems–a kind of interconnectedness that defies a classical characterization in terms of independently existent parts connected by faster than light signals or forces.
2. Conditions for Quantum Field-Like Phenomena in Levels Three and Four
Quantum field-like phenomena in analysis evolve out of a deeper and more intense interaction than that described when we were discussing classical fields. The relationship between analyst and analysand and between the pair and the objective psyche are now more intimate, more mutual. We have moved to levels three and four discussed above. Eros is working his magic in drawing the analyst and the analysand together and toward the root of their own being. Here the growth and healing often born out of affliction and sustained by suffering becomes a voyage of discovery of the numinous archetypes of the collective unconscious. This relationship produces a diminishing of the sense of separateness and independence between the analyst and analysand. Through the therapeutic process they are now mutually connected to the objective psyche. Now, rather than causal interactions there are, as we discuss below, acausal expressions of meaning. Simultaneously there are expressions of the somatic unconscious and a variety of subtle-body experiences.
Figure 3 tries to embody these ideas by modifying our Figure 1. Here two interpenetrating cones show that the conscious aspect of an individual, the ego-persona, rests on a much larger base of the personal and collective unconscious. The cone structure shows that consciousness is always influenced by and influencing the unconscious. The horizontal double-headed arrow depicts the conscious interaction. The diagonal double-headed arrows depict the transference, counter-transference, and projective identification discussed above. In Figure 3 the unconscious of the analyst is in direct contact with the unconscious of the analysand (participation mystique) because the two cones overlap both in the personal and collective unconscious. (Obviously, the clean demarcation between the layers of the psyche is a diagrammatic illusion, since there is no clear boundary between, for example, the personal and collective unconscious.) What is perhaps most significant in the figure is the explicit reference to the infusion of archetypes into the relationship. In other words, when the therapeutic relationship become sufficiently deep, when we are profoundly and mutually immersed in the field, then we have prepared the conditions for direct mutual influence by the gods.
3. Quantum Field-Like Phenomena in Mutual Process
Here we attempt to describe some of the mutual process phenomenology in levels three and four by employing ideas from quantum field theory. Just as in physics, we are here faced with a genuine complementarity, but in the psychological case between consciousness and the unconscious. If we wish to participate fully in the field, our sense of separate identity along with its clearly focused ego-consciousness must greatly diminish. If we operate solely rationally, then the field experience fades. To be fully in the field requires an openness to fantasy, feelings, intuitions, sensations, and all the products of the psyche that are blinded by the effulgence of rational consciousness. When attending to the unconscious or affected by it, we frequently experience this complementarity, this tension, between rationally understanding the process and immersing ourselves in it.
When we feel we are truly “in the relational field,” one that touches both the psychic unconscious and somatic unconscious, with the latter definitely activated, we note that the interaction has dropped into a deeper level, that there is a qualitative shift to a more intimate connection. Often, the first manifestation of this arousal of the somatic unconscious is a definite and characteristic tingling in the palms of both hands. This is sometimes felt by the analyst and by the analysand at the same time. Often, this stage is preceded by the analyst experiencing physical symptoms such as stomach ache, headache, chest arousal, etc. When he or she notes this and asks the analysand what is happening in the latter’s psyche, they frequently respond that something similar has happened or is happening. When the two are experiencing synchronization of phenomena, the mobilization of mutual process, in interaction with the collective unconscious, has taken place and the subtle body is aroused (see previous discussion). We surmise that the field has been present all along, but it is this attention or activation which has signaled its living presence.
Is the effect more than psychic? Are we hallucinating or inducing hypnotic suggestion, where the analysand is merely pleasing the analyst? We think not, since at least some of these field experiences are studied by other analysts (Schwartz-Salant 1989). Our considered opinion is that the effect has a physiological correlate and that the psyche is responding to something physical, an expression of the somatic unconscious in consciousness. We now believe that tingling hands are one reliable indicator of the presence of the field. Does this imply that the hands, richly supplied with nerve endings, are actually sensing in some mysterious way a field like those studied in physics? We cannot say for certain, however it is tempting to think this way.
Another possibility which we favor is that the subtle body, the psyche functioning through its material substrate of organized energy patterns, is the organ of perception of the field. Just as the psyche functioning through symbolic intuition is the organ of perception of the archetypes, it may be that the subtle body, the psyche conjoined with its physical-energic base, is the organ of perception of the field. This is another way of saying, as we did in the introduction, that the psychic and somatic unconscious are activated or constellated.
Beside the tingling in the palms of the hands, there is often a mutual reflecting or mirroring of somatic symptoms. In addition, a genuine archetypal presence is often experienced. The archetype seems to be present as a real third in the therapeutic relationship. The experience of the archetypal presence, the third, comes in two distinct but related ways: symbolically and through what we believe is the subtle body.
To expand on the symbolic mode, let’s continue our simple example from the previous section. At this level of the therapeutic interaction it now feels like the archetypal father is present with the analyst and the analysand–actually attendant in the consulting room. God the father stands alongside of or within the image of the personal father. Under the best of conditions this becomes a numinous epiphany, a revelation of the archetype in the healing process. Now authentic healing takes place. We are again reminded of the saying in the New Testament, “When two or three of you are gathered in My name, I will be present.” The self seems to be presiding over the process through the archetype. The field vibrates with power, emotion, and meaning.
Now there are more than intuitions that an archetype is present as the guiding third, as the presiding deity. Joint active imagination shows its presence more directly. When conditions seem appropriate, both analyst and analysand can elect the option of closing their eyes, turning inward, and engaging in active imagination. After a period of silence, which is broken by whichever person who cares to, they report their fantasies and inner dialogues. Then it becomes clear that the archetype so palpably present is simultaneously infusing both their fantasies and inner dialogues with meaning–a meaning that deeply connects them through the archetype. There can be genuine synchronicities between the irruptions of the psyche in both parties. The images are often different, yet the archetype simultaneously infusing the analyst’s images with meaning provides an acausal bridge to the analysand’s images. It appears that the joint active imagination is separately going on in two individuals, but when the parties report the imagery they find they are being simultaneously and acausally guided by an archetypal presence.
The more physiological experience of the archetypal presence–the perception through the subtle body–may begin with tingling in the palms. It is often followed by energy perceptions in other parts of the body, especially in the various chakras discussed in kundalini yoga. Often the experience will be simultaneous for both parties. Sometimes it is reported by one and then later experienced by the other. No doubt, there is always the possibility of suggestion, however, we believe that the phenomena go beyond suggestion.
That both the somatic unconscious and psychic unconscious are activated seems clear. How this becomes manifest in the therapeutic relationship depends upon the participating parties. Schwartz-Salant, for example (Schwartz-Salant 1989), uses the image of the couple as present in the relationship. This is drawn from the alchemical royal brother/sister pair and serves as the valued fourth which resolves the dilemma of the third versus the fourth in the famous Axiom of Maria Prophetissa. Schwartz-Salant also points out that this presence of the image of four helps to avoid the dangerous and potentially destructive effects of acting out the immensely powerful archetypal forces activated.
JMS’s experiences, in harmony with those of Meier and others, confirms those reported by Schwartz-Salant. It seems the “third,” as the archetypes of the collective unconscious, is activated and, since most archetypes are relational (e.g., parent implies child, wise man implies pupil, king implies queen, aggression and sexuality imply a partner), these usually manifest initially as a polarity in the relationship. The analysand experiences the analyst as magician, for example, and themselves as apprentice or victim. The opposites are strongly constellated but, with the analyst’s consciousness of this opposition, it is possible that both parties can arrive at a condition transcending this opposition. These opposites often bounce back and forth, so to speak, between the partners until each of them experiences both sides within himself/herself. This is the desired equality and mutuality JMS has been trying to understand as far back as 1965 (Spiegelman 1965). Equality derives from being equal before God, he noted then, despite obvious inequality in every other way. We achieve this deep equality in the analytic work when both partners find the opposites within themselves and find the Self within and between them as the mediating condition. This gives an experience of both the “God within” and “God among” and is usually accompanied by interactive field phenomena.
We gave one example of this condition earlier, when JMS described his experience with the former priest. Another is one had by VM and JMS when they were planning this paper. They were seated under a tree in the latter’s backyard discussing a father-son and brother-brother constellation that had happened between them, following a presentation of a dream by VM.
As they discussed fathering and being a son in each of their experiences with their own fathers and sons, the subtle-body experience of each of them grew in intensity. Besides this, VM began to experience the distinctive energy of the kundalini, rising and descending within him. Then he heard a rustling in the tree above them and spotted what looked like a dove (it might have been another bird) and called JMS’s attention to it. This was immediately thrilling to both and, naturally, recalled the picture in the Rosarium Philosophorum, where the king and queen join hands while a dove, a symbol of the holy spirit, is connecting with them from above. The energy released, along with the father and son images between and among them, provided a strong sense of bonding and brotherhood, as well as some healing of wounds that each of them had experienced elsewhere in the father/son connection. The spirit, as father and son to them both, was the uniting factor.
Incidentally, Jung notes that the Visio Arislei suggests that unification of male with male is not productive. It seems to us, and especially to JMS in many of his mutual process projects with others, that this is too pessimistic and such unions, in brotherhood, are very possible. This male/male connection has produced several “children” thus far, in the form of physics/depth psychology articles, as well as co-authored books on Jungian psychology and various religions.
Let us now employ ideas from quantum fields to try to characterize this interaction more fully. (In what follows we use the modifiers “classical” and “quantum” when it is necessary to distinguish between the two types of fields, otherwise our remarks apply to both types.) When using the idea of a field, we are acknowledging that the unconscious or the archetypal presence is not a visible entity localizable in a particular part of space. Rather, like a classical field, the invisible presence seems more pervasive of space. However, deeper reflection argues for the idea that the experience is actually of a principle that transcends our notion of spacetime and that therefore it is more like a quantum mechanical field in this sense.
The meaningful correlations of the images produced in the joint active imagination and the simultaneity of subtle body sensations argues for understanding the experience as an acausal expression of meaning–more like synchronicity than a causal influence of the analyst upon the analysand or vice versa. If we follow Jung and understand that “the archetype represents psychic probability,” then we see that a quantum field description of the relational interaction mediated by an archetype is more appropriate. Because the manifestation of meaning in the field is acausal, many different images in the joint active imagination could incarnate the archetypal meaning. The critical thing is the archetype incarnating simultaneously in both the analyst and analysand, not what particular images carry it. Similarly, quantum fields describe probability distributions for a range of possible manifestations all of which, despite their diversity, are expression of the same field. In physics, the diverse expressions of the quantum field certainly have a pattern and order and they obey fundamental laws like conservation of mass-energy and momentum. Similarly, in joint active imagination the manifestations of, say, the father archetype are diverse but easily distinguished in most cases from the archetypal expressions of the anima, although both may be present. They also obey certain structural laws of the psyche, such as what are the dominant psychological functions of the individuals involved. While active imagination is a significant exploratory tool in the mutual process exchange, it is far from the only one. Joint active imagination gives us imaginal and symbolic access to the field while the subtle body gives us sensory access to the field. Perhaps we can say that the two organs of perception for the interactive field are symbolic imagination and the subtle body.
One of the deep mysteries in this acausal field experience is the awareness that the presiding archetype is simultaneously and meaningfully structuring the individual psyches of both the analyst and the analysand. The temptation is to view this as some form of causal thought transference, to see the process as an expression of a causal classical field. However, the psychological experience is more like an acausal expression of meaning. The images are not the same or even necessarily of a similar type (for example, both of animals or mythological heroes), however the archetype organizing and infusing them in both parties is the same. In this way, we have much more an expression of acausal meaning, an instantiating of the archetype in both parties, without a causal interaction either between the analyst and analysand or between the archetype and the therapeutic partners. Because of our deep, and often unconscious, commitment to causality, accepting the reality of an acausal connection is difficult for us. This is true whether we are psychologists or physicists.
The quantum field seems like an appropriate explanatory vehicle because of its nonlocal nature, because it implies a deep acausal interconnectedness, a profound and mutual interdependency between apparently distinct parts of a system. Although the analyst and analysand surely have (at the level of the upper parts of the cones in the figure) a distinguishable and separable existence, at a deeper level (where the cones interpenetrate) they are both expressions of the same objective psyche. Relationally there is a deep interdependency since there is no being an analyst without having an analysand and vice versa. Substantially there is deep interconnection because ultimately we are all expressions of the same objective psyche. The nonlocality of quantum fields trenchantly expresses all this, reminding us repeatedly, both theoretically and experimentally, of the profound acausal interconnectedness of the universe, which depends neither upon distance nor upon the transmission of forces or information at speeds greater than that of light. From the psychological side, without the light of consciousness the interdependency in the participation mystique may be negative. Schwartz-Salant (Schwartz-Salant 1989) and others note this by “fusion states.” However, if we can bring consciousness into it then we have the true root of our healing, the balm of Gilead.
Finally, we may consider that the four phases of mutual process can be seen as similar to the development, in history, of the physics and psychology of causality (Descartes and Freud), the initial realization of causal fields (Newton and Klein/Object Relations), the relativized field (Einstein and Jung), followed by the quantum field in both disciplines. We stress that this, of course, has nothing to do with better or worse, but is merely descriptive of different levels of reality, which often operate simultaneously.
We are fully aware that our efforts at discussing the relational field raise at least as many questions as they answer. Perhaps the first question that comes to mind is about the ontic status of the field. Is it a real, measurable field of the type studied in physics or is it merely a fitting and powerful symbolic characterization of a variety of phenomena experienced in deep mutual process? Schwartz-Salant prefers to characterize this as the imaginal, and although this is certainly true and we are as adamant about psychic reality as any other Jungian, the concept of matter and the somatic unconscious, as well as the experience of the subtle-body suggests something more encompassing. To help answer this question we are investigating the possibility of making electrical skin resistance measurements (galvanic skin response) in the hands of both the analyst and the analysand when in this condition. Although we favor the possibility of finding physiological and material correlates for these experiences, von Franz (von Franz 1992, p. 2-4) thinks that galvanic skin responses are insufficient as indicators for such complexes. We cannot at this stage definitely evaluate the ontic status of the field. We hope that by raising these issues some useful discussion and clarification can result. If in fact the field turns out to be physical as well as mental, then we must address a whole host of problems surrounding the relation between psyche and matter. This is an exciting prospect for a deeper interconnection between physics and depth psychology, just as Jung and Pauli desired.
There are also practical problems. For example, for what type of analysts and analysands is mutual process appropriate and desirable? If it is desirable, at what stage in therapy do we employ it or, more likely, does it occur of itself? How do such individual differences such as the dominant psychological type affect the phenomena? If mutual process is as truly mutual as we believe it should and could be then it challenges some of our most precious beliefs about the appropriate relations between analyst and analysand.
An analyst and physicists combine their disciplines in studying the transference as an interactive field. Through a description of the history and evolution of the therapeutic relationship as one moving from asymmetry to symmetry, from reductive causal interaction to acausal, synchronistic expression of meaning, we describe four levels of interaction.
To unpack the notion of interactive field we describe the physics of local, causal, classical fields and directly connect them to the therapeutic encounter of the first two levels. The second two levels require discussion of nonlocal, acausal, quantum fields. In this connection, the subtle body and joint active imagination provide a physiological and symbolic experience of the interactive field.
Fundamental questions and challenges arise from this study regarding the relationship between analyst and analysand and psyche and soma. This continues and deepens the hoped for interplay between physics and depth psychology espoused by Jung, Pauli, Meier, and von Franz.
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