Through a Jungian Lens

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Alchemy Stage 1 – Nigredo Part 2

with 8 comments

Now to continue on from the last post . . . From Nigel Hamilton’s study, “The Alchemical Process of Transformation:

“From a psychological standpoint, this stage is experienced as entering a dark and chaotic unconscious inner world. St John of the Cross has referred to this as the first of two dark nights, the dark night of the mind, which is an encounter with the darker aspects of our self (that which Jung called “the shadow”). At first nothing appears to make sense, indeed all the therapist can do at this stage of the process is to be fully present and empathise with the client, who in the process of articulating their experience, facilitates it further. The therapeutic setting, i.e. the therapy room, becomes the hermetically sealed vessel and the inner chaos that the client enters into is symbolised by the reactions of opposing forces struggling against each other. That is to say the client’s own psyche reveals its submerged inner conflicts to the conscious mind.

This is what I referred to in the last post, the establishing of a place of sacred safety, of temenos. During this part of the work, the “client” tells his or her story as it is known and sensed by the ego, the clothed self, This telling is vital and it is enough for the therapist to listen and support without trying to fix anything at this point.

As the client begins to experience the inner world to be more real, the process intensifies (the fire increases) and often anger, fear, frustration, and a desire to “escape from it all” is experienced. To pass through this stage requires patience, humility and acceptance not only of the client, but also of the therapist, who through experiences knows that a process of purification is in progress and that one by one the inner conflicts will gradually become resolved until a completely new inner state of clarity and freedom is achieved. Then the client will be reconciled with his or her inner earth nature – in alchemical terms they will have united with their “earth nature.”

The therapist tracks the appearance of complexes, contradictions, images and fears through the process of working with dreams, journaling, sand play, and other active imagination strategies. For the client, it almost feels that everything is getting worse as old sores are laid open, exposed to the light. It must be stated that the process doesn’t wait for all the shadows to be exposed. The shifting to the second stage, albedo begins when the therapist and client begin to tackle what has been exposed. Only so much darkness can be held at one time.

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8 Responses

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  1. I never considered a second party for this journey. I imagine it would be very beneficial, depending on the level of trust. To do it alone does require a division of the self which can be a double edge sword… Though, what isn’t a double edge sword? I am loving these posts you are doing and looking forward to the next ones!

    travisthetraveler

    November 30, 2012 at 5:20 pm

    • Doing it alone is fraught with peril, the most dangerous of which might be self-inflation which would become blind to all but the inflated ego’s version of self-reality. Thanks, Travis.

      Sky Clad Therapy

      December 9, 2012 at 9:46 am

      • Very true. I have seen that happen.

        travisthetraveler

        December 9, 2012 at 11:16 am

      • Thanks for the affirmation, Travis.

        Sky Clad Therapy

        December 9, 2012 at 8:30 pm

  2. Usually at this point many folks drop out of counseling; and some therapists become scared at what they are encountering; it is a delicate time – trying to convince patients to stay the course.

    Urspo

    November 30, 2012 at 9:32 pm

    • Trying to convince patients to stay the course, and also trying to have our therapists ready to make the journey with the client.

      Sky Clad Therapy

      December 9, 2012 at 9:47 am

  3. Dear Friend,
    Thank you for this Post.
    There is something that I don’t quite understand what you wrote : ”Then the client will be reconciled with his or her inner earth nature – in alchemical terms they will have united with their “earth nature.”
    Can you explain this for me ?

    Ric

    December 3, 2012 at 3:48 am

    • I will try, Ric. But that will have to become a future post so that it can be explained in context. Thanks.

      Sky Clad Therapy

      December 9, 2012 at 9:48 am


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