My Road to Jung

or How I Ended Up 10,000 Feet Under the Ground

It turned out that I would have many confirming dreams about training, applying for training, and about Jung himself. Early on, however, my road to Jung was paved not by initiatory dreams or visions (at least, I do not recall any), but by a sequence of pivotal events in my life.

Gary S. Toub, Ph.D., Jungian Analyst, Denver, Colorado, USA

It turned out that I would have many confirming dreams about training, applying for training, and about Jung himself. Early on, however, my road to Jung was paved not by initiatory dreams or visions (at least, I do not recall any), but by a sequence of pivotal events in my life. These events have had for me a feeling of fate about them, as if I had been led or called in a specific direction, one for which I unconsciously yearned. It was as if I had been guided through a dense fog without knowing it at the time until much later, when I would be able to identify and choose the path more consciously.

As background, I must first say that I was clearly on a spiritual search throughout my college years. Never initiated or grounded in the religious tradition of my parents, Judaism, I was left on my own to explore the answers to the perennial questions about life. Most of my early interests were in Eastern philosophy and practices, such as Buddhism, Hinduism, and Taoism—or at least the Western versions of them taught by Alan Watts, Ram Dass, Stephen, and others.

At the same time, I was drawn to the study of psychology and pursued undergraduate and graduate degrees in the field, particularly clinical, or applied, psychology. For a long time, these two interests—spirituality and psychology— ran parallel in my life, rarely touching one another (one exception I recall was a class at Long Beach State University called "Yoga and Psychology"). Generally, I studied psychology in school and spiritual disciplines in my personal life. When I was accepted for doctoral studies in clinical psychology at the University of Arizona, I requested permission to minor in religious studies, but was denied. My advisor matter-of-factly informed me that my area of study, clinical psychology, was already the "softest" specialty in psychology. Religious studies were simply out of the question. He said I needed to pick a "hard" scientific area in which to minor, like statistics or experimental psychology. So I ended up selecting something I could live with, developmental psychology.

Meanwhile, I fell in love with a woman I met at the mental health facility where I worked. Among the things we had in common were strong spiritual and metaphysical penchants. I discovered that she was particularly fond of the writings of Jung, about which I knew nothing. I remember her showing me Man and His Symbols and her prized volumes of Jung's Collected Works. I also recollect her talking to me about the meaning in dreams. However, I was only superficially interested in what she told me, focusing more on getting through my doctoral studies (which completely excluded Jungian psychology). I looked at her and my dreams with about the same seriousness that I read the newspaper horoscope (i.e., as a form of play). Jungian psychology was something I was simply not able to grasp at the time.

Probably the biggest turning point came when it was time for me to leave the university campus and complete a year-long clinical internship. I conscientiously sought a position with good financial support and a desirable geographical location (I was interested in living a simple, back-to-the-land lifestyle somewhere in the Pacific Northwest). By an odd sequence of events, right before the deadline for applications, an advisor at school suggested I apply to Camarillo State Hospital in California. I looked it up in my internship guidebook and it didn't sound very inviting. It offered the minimal NIMH stipend, just $3,600 for the year! Even worse, it was less than an hour's drive from my city of birth, Los Angeles, to which I had no desire to return. Not to mention—I had already applied to twelve other locations! "Well," I thought, "I guess I could apply to Camarillo as a back-up in the unlikely event that all the other applications fall through." "No one would want to go there!" I figured. "I know I'll get accepted!"

A month or so later, rejection notices started rolling in and—you guessed it—I ended up being accepted only at my last choice, Camarillo State Hospital! After getting over the shock and disappointment, I resigned myself to my fate, packed up my bags, and headed out west to Camarillo, California. Soon after arriving, I met two psychology interns who told me they'd come from far away across the country. They had chosen Camarillo's mental hospital as their first choice because of the Jungian analyst on the staff! I believe this was probably the only internship in the country with a Jungian analyst on staff. Well, this piqued my curiosity, to say the least. And the seeds my girlfriend had planted seemed to get a few drops of moisture.

Shortly after I arrived at the hospital, the analyst there, Russ Lockhart, was asked to give a talk to the psychology staff. He showed the film Face to Face and commented briefly on the things Jung discussed in the BBC interview. I don't recall much of what Russ said, only that I was moved and drawn to it. The other psychologists and interns showed little or no interest, but the two east coast interns and I were hungry for more. We collectively asked Russ to meet with us informally, once a week, over a brown bag lunch, and he agreed. It wasn't really a seminar, but more a chance to ask Russ questions and discuss various of Jung's thoughts and ideas. I didn't understand all of what he said, but what I did grasp made a great deal of sense, much more than what I was being taught elsewhere in the hospital. I just knew, somehow, that it was right. It resonated with something inside me. The seeds were beginning to sprout.

I started reading Jungian books and articles, and began working with an analyst in Los Angeles. At the hospital, Russ instructed our little group in the use of sandtray therapy and supervised my work with an adolescent patient. I remember being touched by how respectful Russ was of the human psyche. He encouraged me to take seriously the utterances of my psychotic patient (she claimed her twin babies had been killed by hospital attendants). He taught me to pay attention to the images and patterns in the unconscious, and to listen to what the soul was saying. Elsewhere in the hospital, I saw patients being medicated, treated behaviorally, and taught how to relax (having drowsy, heavily sedated patients led through relaxation exercises seemed rather bizarre!). But I was most intrigued by Jungian psychology. Still, it wasn't time to enter training yet. I had other tasks to fulfill first.

I sensed that I needed to begin my psychology career and start earning a living. So I headed out to a mental health center in desolate Rock Springs, Wyoming (why there is another strange twist of fate I will not go into here). Soon, however, I began feeling pretty sterile myself. I was empty and depressed. My life lacked something, but I didn't know what it was. I was lost and confused professionally, too. I tried my best with my clients, but I had learned so many different therapeutic modalities (my Ph.D. program was eclectic), I really didn't know quite what to do in any given case. I believed in the Jungian approach philosophically, but wasn't certain how to apply it in a practical way. I had gone through a fully accredited four-year doctoral program in clinical psychology and yet I still was not aware of how to work meaningfully with my clients. I was experiencing a major identity crisis.

Fortunately, I found my way out of the Wyoming wasteland and out of my own barrenness as well. Attending a conference in Denver on humanistic psychology, I happened to attend a talk by a Jungian analyst, Jeff Raff. Once again, something in me felt nourished, and I knew I needed to get to Denver so I could get back into analysis and study Jung again. At first my way was stymied, but I eventually achieved this goal. Upon reflection, I am impressed with how auspiciously things worked out—how lucky I was to move to Denver for a well-paying job, one that allowed me both the time and money for analysis and training. In fact, all along the way, things curiously seemed to occur just when I needed them to. I got money when I required it most. Likewise, when I needed time to study, it was there. When it was necessary to have analysands for the control stage of training, they appeared. It was a remarkably affirming and sometimes magical process, but not one without setbacks and hardship as well. It was necessary for me to learn to trust the unconscious—and that took many painful lessons.

Before closing, there is one dream that deserves to be mentioned in terms of initiation. It actually came somewhere in the middle of my formal Jungian training, three or so years into it. But it was an initiatory dream all the same. I would say that it initiated me into the deeper level of the process—into the mythic nature of the training in which I was involved. I was starting to question what I was doing in training. I had failed one of my exams and was required to wait a year to take it again. I thought perhaps it was time to stop. After all, I had already earned B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. degrees, and had passed psychology licensing exams in Wyoming and Colorado. Furthermore, my psychology practice was going very well. Hadn't I jumped through enough hoops? Hadn't I completed enough school and taken enough exams? Why was I still trying to satisfy the "Father?" Couldn't I stand on my own authority by now? I stewed and thought about all these things. Then I had the following dream:

I am employed as the assistant to an alchemist. There is a woman helper as well. The alchemist reminds me of Jungian analyst Arny Mindell (who was my analyst's analyst, someone I thought of as my spiritual grandfather). I am questioning what we are doing and have decided to pull out. For this, I am considered a heretic. Then the alchemist comes and talks with me. He says we have performed only part of the opus. There is still one major stage to complete. He tells me that I am the only one who can do it. It involves cooking and transforming the alchemical substance in a large outdoor oven or container that looks very much like a huge hole dug in the earth. But there is a problem. The surrounding community considers it dangerous and illegal, fearing the contamination it could cause. The alchemist says he does not know how to solve this problem—that only I can solve it. It is up to me.

I awoke profoundly moved by this dream. My doubts and questions of the days before were entirely gone, and in their place there was a strong conviction that I had to continue with the process of becoming an analyst. I understood from the dream that the training program was not about jumping through hoops to please the "Father" or achieving yet another diploma for my wall. It was a deep (literally, in the ground!) mythic process of transformation. It was not even for me, really, but for the sake of the alchemical materia—which I imagined to be the still unrealized Self. Yet it was only I who could complete the task. Unquestionably, the training process of becoming a Jungian analyst carried new meaning and depth for me.

Finally, the image of the underground alchemical furnace reminds me that one of the first dreams I can recall—long before my interest in Jung emerged—was that I was pulling up carrots out of the ground. They had big leafy tops above the earth, but scrawny roots underneath. Remarkably, one of the last dreams I had before graduating Jungian training was that the process of analysis had taken me deep into my interior; in fact, the image in the dream was that I was literally 10,000 feet under the ground! I had at last found the depth and grounding for which I had been searching.

Copyright 1994 Gary S. Toub. All rights reserved.