Here’s Part II of my interview with Shirley Showalter, a blogger and memoir writer I met on the internet.
Question #2: Are you a trained Jungian analyst? If so, what do those of us who don’t have formal training in dream interpretation do? Do we need an analyst to help us?
My Answer: Most people think I’m a Jungian analyst, but I’m not. I’m just obsessed with Jungian psychology because when I discovered it, it hit my inner environment with the force of a Florida hurricane! Hurricane Jean, I guess. My doctorate is in education—Curriculum and Instruction—and my teaching specialties were Children’s Literature and Language Arts.
These were never my passions, but I didn’t know it until the age of 46 when I discovered Jungian psychology. A dear friend invited me to join a 5-year long Jungian study group called Centerpoint which is based on a series of lessons written by Jungian analysts.
The first activity at our first meeting was to share an important dream. I shared one I had at the age of ten in which my hero, the Lone Ranger, shot me, and to my surprise and discomfort I realized I could barely talk because I was struggling so hard to hold in tears and some strong emotions. That’s when I knew the power of this kind of inner work.
There weren’t any Jungian analysts where I lived so I ordered several books from Inner City Books, a publisher that specializes in Jungian studies written by Jungian analysts, and started reading on my own. And underlining! And taking notes. Soon I was writing down my dreams and trying to understand them. Essentially, I was discovering and following my passion.
Except for the members of my weekly study group, (and we rarely talked about our own dreams after that first time), I had no other inner work companions: no teachers, no therapists, no one else to talk to about the exciting inner journey I was taking. Of course there was my husband, and he tried his best to listen, but as an extremely busy economist, his heart wasn’t in it and I hated to burden him.
After a year of this I knew I had a book or two in me, so I decided to quit teaching and start writing. I can’t adequately express how freeing and empowering it was to make these choices, and from the very beginning my dreams affirmed that I was doing the right thing. My first psychological book was The Bridge to Wholeness: A Feminine Alternative to the Hero Myth. In it I wrote about the value of working with my dreams, and my readers’ responses were so positive that I decided to write another book about how to do it.
Dream Theatres of the Soul: Empowering the Feminine through Jungian Dream Work came out two years later. Copies of both are still available from Amazon, and I’d recommend them to anyone seriously interested in going deeper. My newest book, Healing the Sacred Divide: Making Peace with Ourselves, Each Other, and the World, also contains stories about what I’ve learned from my dreams. It can be ordered from larsonpublications.com or Amazon, both of which are offering pre-publication discounts.
So in answer to your question, I’d say that having the help of a Jungian analyst would be a rare and highly desirable gift. However, it’s not absolutely essential to one who has a passion for self-knowledge if s/he’s willing to do the work.
The picture is of an old root cellar tucked into the mountain on our property.