This is an ongoing discussion of The Survival Papers (Books I and II) by Daryl Sharp. This is the second post in the discussion.
The analyst commits one of the greatest sins for an analyst. He forgets, ignores or dismisses the idea that his clients (and everyone else) are people, not clusters of complexes. They are unique individuals with real feelings. He goes so far in his sin that instead of using real-life examples—with details changed—for his midlife crisis client, he fabricates his MLC character and that character’s wife. This way he can ensure that they fit his judgments and the complexes he ascribes to them. Because of this, his characters (Norman and Nancy) are cardboard archetypes who do not seem real.
I am not saying there is something wrong with creating a work of fiction, but it is misleading when it is passed off as prescriptive or informational non-fiction. These books are not novels, they are books about midlife crisis in a Jungian context and the author is a credible Jungian Analyst. Great! As a reader I have a different expectation of this than of a novel. I am seeking information—and the information in this book is helpful. But the problem is the examples. Therapist-writers often use vignettes from their practice as examples to lead the reader to understanding by showing rather than simply telling with information. But there is an expectation that those vignettes are not fabricated—though to maintain privacy there is also an expectation that details will be changed. Book I presents itself as a book using the example of the client Norman to show a typical MLC. It is at the end of Book I that the reader learns that Norman is not real—though this likely does not come as a shock to the reader, it didn’t to me.
Everything feels pre-destined. The characters are living out their fates based on their early childhood experiences. I won’t deny that we are shaped by our experiences, but I also believe that the reverse is just as true: we have the power to shape our experiences. Daryl Sharp’s characters have no such power; they are pawns of fate.
The analyst approaches the world and life with an Acting As If attitude. He tells Norman that Nancy’s aim is “to hold onto you in the castrated role of very best friend.” (Book 2, p.84) The analyst enables Norman (thereby encouraging him) to approach the situation as though Nancy is putting him in a castrated role, but in doing this he manifests his expectation because she reacts to it.
I think some people are suspicious of Psychology and those who practice it. Why? Because there is this notion that someone trained in the science of Psychology knows things about you—secret things. They can just tell things by looking or from a single tidbit of personal history. I think this suspicion may be greatest among those who practice analysis. The analyst in these books diagnoses Nancy through Norman—he only meets her once in the 4th chapter of Book II—and he makes predictive and projective assumptions based on their complexes.
I find my own suspicions surfacing as I make my judgments about the books. Will Daryl Sharp dismiss my comments because of my complexes—or assumed complexes? She clearly has a negative [fill in the blank] complex which leads her to that conclusion and because of that, her opinion lacks validity.
He dismisses Nancy based on his assumptions about her negative complexes, so why not others? And I am not saying he is incorrect about Nancy—though as her creator he gets to choose her complexes and thus be correct. My problem is how he uses those complexes to deny validity or credibility to her feelings and emotions and how Norman’s actions affect her as well as how his own actions or inactions as Norman’s analyst influence and encouragement of him. He’s just the analyst, he stays objective, gives no opinions, passes no judgments (openly) and bears no responsibility! At least that is how he comes across. The only thing of importance is individuation; that Norman become more individuated and become more self-aware. If Norman’s children suffer, so what! Actually, how could they suffer? Norman becoming individuated can only be good for everyone involved, so goes the justifications of the analyst. I agree that individuation is positive, but I disagree that the path to individuation is one that is destructive to others.
To the analyst, Nancy is merely an archetype. Her feelings and how Norman’s actions might affect her and their children are irrelevant. He admits she did not seem real to him. “I was unprepared for Nancy’s call. To me she was a phantom, a woman Norman married and used to live with. She had not crossed my mind since Norman left for Paris.” (Book 2, p.58)
Nancy did call and she came in for one appointment. What happens when you meet an archetype and discover she is real?