Exploring the resonances between psychodynamic therapy and the Judaeo-Christian faith 2

A further link can be seen in the belief found in psychodynamic work that there is a remedy through stablishing a different kind of relationship. In this relationship the therapist or counsellor is prepared to enter deeply into the person’s pain and confusion. By doing this the therapist or counsellor can get a sense of what is going on in the inner world of the person, though it can create disturbance too in the therapist. Christianity offers redemption also through relationship where another steps into our darkness and share sour suffering with us. The person of Jesus can become an intense companion and reality in the mind of the believer. I like the way Revd Chris MacKenna, priest and Jungian analyst, puts it:

‘There is loving identification with one who has shared our life and died our death. There is a powerful dynamic of projection and introjection through which all our sin, muddle and confusion is put “into” the figure of Jesus on the cross, but then detoxified and offered back in changed form by the risen Christ. Jesus’ death is the depressive nightmare: we seem to have destroyed the source of love, and to be left in total, hopeless darkness. His resurrection, though, shows that not even all our envy, shit and rage can annihilate the power of love.’

This is the risen Christ as the indestructible container and in the Eucharist, we place ourselves as the symbolic bread and wine on the altar so we can be made into the Body of Christ. In both the practice of the Eucharist and in psychodynamic work we grow through relationship with an Other.

In therapy we begin to put together – helped by interpretations from the therapist a new story that helps us understand our experiences. There is a meaning to be gained from our symptoms and this can be added to the new narrative to explain ourselves to ourselves. Again, in the Judaeo-Christian tradition narrative plays an essential part – memories of slavery; stories of the life of Jesus. The message is that life comes through death and the narratives help to locate us. The search for meaning is central to the inner sense of the truth of our existence. Ready-made religious stories can be stultifying and stunting but the narratives are often archetypal and we can find our own struggles within them rather than hearing them as history. In therapy a new story is elicited and put together in religion the stories are already present but in both we are trying to locate and find the truth of our experiences.