- Discussion: The Survival Papers (Book I and II) By Daryl Sharp
- Sins of the Analyst
- What Happens When You Meet an Archetype and Discover She is Real?
- It’s the Marriage, Stupid!
This is an ongoing discussion of The Survival Papers (Books I and II) by Daryl Sharp. This is the third post in the discussion.
In these books nothing is spectacular—since the analyst created the character of Nancy and thus she gets to fit the archetype without straying. She meets all his expectations.
“”My father was an alcoholic,” said Nancy dabbing her eyes. “He wandered off when I was four years old… After he left, my mother wouldn’t allow him to see us, and he finally stopped trying. I don’t know what’s become of him.”
The absent father motif. A very important factor in the psychological makeup of women whose father left or died in the early years.” (Book II page 65)
Imagine that you are melanoma. Your doctor identifies you by your strain and medication profile and everything about you is about your melanoma. This is what the analyst is doing. He identifies people with or as their complexes rather an as themselves.
Clearly I am not going to be able to make a point by citing examples from these books. So let’s switch gears for a moment and look at Divorce Remedy by Michele Weiner Davis.
Though I recall an example where she reviewed seeing one spouse and then their partner, I think that was in an audio of something else. In Divorce Remedy she reviews a similar situation, but instead of a couple visiting her, she gives an example of the differences in stories and how friends who hear only one-side interpret the situation. This is in a section titled Well Meaning Friends and Family from page 23 -29.
“Oddly enough, some of the people nearest to you are part of the problem. This is not to say that they don’t have your best interest at heart. They do. They love you. They can’t stand to see you in pain. More than anyone, they know you and know how much you deserve happiness in your life. Their caring is genuine.” (Divorce Remedy p. 23)
She goes on to describe the situation:
Sue felt she and her husband Jeff had grown apart and she confided in her sister. She cried as she described the differences between the honeymoon phase and the present. Jeff worked long hours, he was not interested in talking or spending time with her when he was not working and he responded coldly when she expressed her feelings regarding this; he withdrew even more making the situation even worse. Sue reacted by stopping her efforts to engage him and Jeff in turn reacted by becoming increasingly critical.
From Sue’s perspective, Jeff was the problem and thus he was to blame. Those of you reading this may have already noticed the reactive dynamics: Sue reacted to Jeff who reacted to Sue who added another reaction…and so on. But it’s hard to recognize those dynamics when you are the one in them and it’s hard for Sue’s sister because she’s experiencing them with and through Sue’s emotionality; all she did was validate Sue’s feelings, but she was unable to offer solutions other than to go to counseling, give an ultimatum or separate.
Sue tried an ultimatum. What this did was set up the situation for blame. Since Sue saw Jeff as the problem, her approach put him on the defensive and he withdrew even more—the situation got even worse. But this often serves as a confirmation to the person giving the ultimatum: my spouse doesn’t really care because they aren’t willing to change. Sue’s sister validated this belief and since things were only getting worse, she encouraged Sue to leave her marriage.
Jeff talked about Sue to a friend. In his version Sue nagged constantly and when he responded by helping her, she showed criticism and no appreciation. Finally he stopped trying. To Jeff, it was Sue who was no longer interested in shared activities, she had a life without him. For Jeff the biggest change was Sue’s lack of interest in sex. This felt like a constant rejection. Jeff became irritable and he withdrew. Jeff’s friend recommended spicing things up with romance.
Let’s break for a moment. Think about this. When a woman is not feeling close to her husband, she is not feeling sexy. Most women respond with sex when and because they are already feeling close; distance and tension reduce their desire. How do you think Sue might respond/react to Jeff’s attempt to spice things up? To Jeff this is a valid attempt to resolve their distance and build intimacy, but a woman may view this as a man only caring about one thing—and she may be insulted or even disgusted.
Archetypes are not people because they are not multidimensional. Sue saw Jeff as a typical American male archetype: the strong and silent husband who won’t talk and withdraws. Jeff saw Sue as a typical feminine and wifely archetype: the nagging shrew. Both were showing traits of those archetypes, but neither was looking deeper to consider why. Archetypes are meaningless if all we do is label without trying to understand the reasons for the attributes.
The Jungian analyst-author is doing this to a degree. He explains both Nancy and Norman in the context of their complexes. But he also dismisses the validity of their pain by explaining them away as part of their complexes. Nancy is the way she is because her father abandoned her when she was young. That may be true, but the analyst is making the mistake of defining her through that.
If we were only archetypes, they would define us, but we are not! When we define people as 2-dimensional representations, we disrespect humanity and its variety.