Thursday, September 02, 2010

Individuation and Traditional Culture

Gretchen Heyer, a Jungian analyst who works in Houston, spoke at the IAAP Congress about her work with several men from tradtiional Middle Eastern cultures. Jung put great emphasis on each person's need to develop an individual relationship to the numinous or the Self, a process he called individuation. Traditional cultures like those of the Muslim Middle East, however, stress the need for the individual to fit into the traditional culture and traditional family structure. For immigrants to North America from these cultures, there can be great tension between the demands of their family culture and those of their new homeland.

She cited the case of a young man from a rich family who worked in the family business and was expected to marry a woman chosen for him by his family. Prior to marriage, he patronized pros-titutes. As a feminist and a Christian, the analyst found this practice objectionable, though it is common for men from certain cultures. She mentioned that a male analyst she knows asked one of his patients why the man went to prostitutes, when "I give you twice as much time for half the money." An interesting comparison.

Heyer's patient did eventually marry the woman chosen by his family, and dropped out of analysis because he claimed he needed the money to invest in a new family business. He indicated that he knew he had disappointed her, the analyst. However, given the great gap in cultural norms between his family and the background of his analyst, he was bound to end up disappointing one or the other, Heyer said.

This was one of many talks on the difficulties of doing analysis with people from very different cultures.


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