Saturday, June 15, 2013

John Beebe - Psychotherapy in the Aesthetic Attitude

Abstract: Drawing upon the writings of Jungian analyst Joseph Henderson on unconscious attitudes toward culture that patients and analysts may bring to therapy, the author defines the aesthetic attitude as one of the basic ways that cultural experience is instinctively accessed and processed so that it can become part of an individual’s self experience. In analytic treatment, the aesthetic attitude emerges as part of what Jung called the transcendent function to create new symbolic possibilities for the growth of consciousness. It can provide creative opportunities for new adaptation where individuation has become stuck in unconscious complexes, both personal and cultural. In contrast to formulations that have compared depth psychotherapy to religious ritual, philosophic discourse, and renewal of socialization, this paper focuses upon the considerations of beauty that make psychotherapy also an art. In psychotherapeutic work, the aesthetic attitude confronts both analyst and patient with the problem of taste, affects how the treatment is shaped and ‘framed’, and can grant a dimension of grace to the analyst’s mirroring of the struggles that attend the patient’s effort to be a more smoothly functioning human being. The patient may learn to extend the same grace to the analyst’s fumbling attempts to be helpful. The author suggests that the aesthetic attitude is thus a help in the resolution of both counter-transference and transference enroute to psychological healing.

John Beebe (2010) Psychotherapy in the Aesthetic Attitude, Journal of Analytical Psychology, Vol. 55, pp. 165–186

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