THE CASE OF MARIA: A JUNGIAN APPROACH
The Jungian psychotherapist welcomes Maria and listens carefully to her life story (case history). Because Jungian psychotherapists believe that analysis of dreams is an opportunity to uncover unconscious thoughts and feelings, the therapist focuses on the detailed content of the dreams. The therapist learns about Maria's dreams and wants to understand the personal as well as transpersonal material from the collective unconscious (Wyly, 1995). The therapist is concerned with several elements of the dreams and analyzes them in the landscape of Maria's life story. The therapist also searches for the meaning of the archetypal characters that play major roles in her dreams and the emotional conflicts within the dreams. The therapist is concerned with Maria's reactions to the characters in her dreams. How does she feel? How does she react to the characters in the dreams? How does she react to the events of the dreams? What do the events of the dreams mean to Maria? Has she ever had a life experience similar to the events of the dreams? The therapist analyzes the meaning of the events of the dreams. For example, the therapist analyzes the meaning of being pursued, the feelings associated with the dream environment, the images generated by the dreams, and the relevance of previously omitted details of the dreams (repressed material).
The therapist is also interested in the impact of the "dream ego" on the functioning of the "waking ego." In Maria's case, the dream ego has a great impact on her waking ego. Because of her fear of dreaming, she is avoiding sleep and is suffering the consequences of chronic sleep deprivation. It is affecting her mood, her work, and her relationship with her children.
In reviewing Maria's childhood and adolescence, the therapist interprets her animus (soul) as the Madonna archetype. With a maturity beyond her years, she serenely became the mother to her younger siblings and ran the household while her parents managed their family business. She also was a leader and inspiration to her religious community. To accomplish this, she had to surrender her own natural anima.
After high school, Maria broke with her family and her religious community, and she was accused of abandoning them. Although her parents wanted her to stay home, she went to college 200 miles away. While there, she met and married a man who personified the child archetype. For a while, they were compatible because her husband fulfilled her desire to mother someone and he wanted to be mothered. However, after their children were born, he felt jealous of the children's attention and was upset because he had adult responsibilities. When he became unhappy, he had adult-sized temper tantrums, which turned into physical and emotional abuse. No matter how hard she tried, Maria could not be the perfect wife and mother and satisfy his need to be the child. Eventually, he abandoned Maria and their children, leaving her to raise the children on her own. This increased her sense of failure.
Maria feels conflicted because she has disowned many parts of herself in an effort to satisfy her husband, family, church, and job. The first of her many conflicts occurred when she disowned many parts of herself when she was an adolescent and took up the archetype of the Madonna. To play that role, she had to deny her natural sensuality, her inner child, to take up adult roles, and she sacrificed spontaneity to be the dutiful daughter. Later she believed that she abandoned her family and siblings to attend college. This placed a strain on her family because she could no longer take care of her home and her younger siblings. Because she was accustomed to taking on the role of mother, she was, therefore, attracted to a man/child. Her second abandonment occurred when she married her husband and become estranged from her parents and siblings. The third abandonment occurred when she was abandoned by her husband and was left alone to raise her children. Finally, to divorce her husband, she had to abandon her religion's commandments against divorce. In consequence to decisions she has made, she is now abandoned by the family of origin that she raised and supported during her childhood and adolescence. In an attempt to reintegrate and find meaning, she attempts to find a new partner but is discouraged by their other-than Madonna expectations. To tap into the subconscious and understand Maria's complexes, the therapist does a word association test.
The therapist analyzes Maria's dreams in the following way: There is a central theme of abandonment. In her dreams, Maria is being pursued by something. Maria is advised to replay the dreams in her mind and narrate the dreams to aid in the interpretation. She describes the boxes scattered throughout the warehouse. Her soul (animus) is chasing her through an abandoned warehouse. She is running because she feels pursued by the competing demands of her family in contrast to her personal goals and is frightened by the person she has become. However, this time she is encouraged to imagine that she stops and looks inside the boxes. She is surprised to discover objects symbolizing parts of her personality that she has disowned (abandoned) in her attempt to please others. The arrows point in different direchons indicating maturity or immaturity of the disowned parts. When she opens the boxes, she is instructed to converse with her split-off personality parts and to ask them to join her and help her reintegrate her personality. For example, in one box she discovers a miniature copy of the Peita, Michelangelo's masterpiece of the Virgin Mary holding the dead body of Jesus on her lap. When she looks upon Mary as she supports her dead son, Maria is filled with a sense of calm, majesty, and inner strength. She realizes that she has abandoned that strength in response to her husband's and her family's demand for attention.
Maria is able to own her various archetypes and personas and becomes aware of her conscious and unconscious thoughts and feelings. As a result, she is able to sleep without further nightmares. She is also able to face down the various competing demands of her family members and prioritize their needs with her own. She is able to live a more congruent and actualized life.