The Inevitability of Conflicts

The unpredictability of the soul: C. G. Jung’s contribution to a deeper understanding of conflicts (Lecture, C. G. Jung Memorial Day, June 2015) 

Conflicts are more than differences of opinion or contentions. Conflicts are experienced as disturbances. They are events that the vast majority of people do not want. They are an aggravation, cause sleepless nights and can render our daily lives miserable. Although we all agree with this view, the conflicts remain. They are unavoidable and occur in all human communities, relationships and social forms. How can the discrepancy between the conscious will and the reality of our daily lives be explained? This talk will address this theme and the contribution of C. G. Jung his established discipline of Analytical Psychology.

First we should consider what conflict is: In a conflict not only are the differences debated but conflicts change us. We are no longer what we usually are. Our attitudes are not the same. Ways of behaving become evident that we normally would not display and would be too ashamed to show. Through conflicts we become estranged to each other. We often no longer even understand ourselves. There are a few typical features of conflictual situations. Mostly there is a narrowing of perception. We tend to tunnel vision, see and hear only that which conforms to our understanding of the origin of the problem and the culprit of the conflict. Conflicts lead to emotionalizing. Emotions take over. Continue reading

Youth violence: symptom of a hysterical society?

Youth Violence: a symptom of a hysterical society? (In: Roots of Violence. Stockholm: Ax:son Johnson Foundation, 2013, p. 121-131 – http://www.axsonjohnsonfoundation.org)

Violence as heated issue

Youth violence has become a prime concern of western societies. In Switzerland, Germany and Austria heated debates on the causes of youth violence are held, prevention programs are launched and campaigns organized. Like a mantra politicians, teachers and pundits proclaim, that youth violence is “definitely on the increase”, gets fiercer and more brutal. Repeatedly one can hear and read the argument, that the violent adolescents don’t respect any limits anymore. Where in the past brawls followed a code of conduct, violence is now raw and primitive. The phrase “Although his opponent lied helplessly on the ground he kept on kicking his face!” is voiced repeatedly in the media and professional circles.[1]

We react by issuing statements and proposing remedies. In some countries even a national alert is proclaimed and politicians demand curfews, the installation of surveillance cameras and the policing of schools. One needs to “draw the line” and be “Tough on youth crime.” School principals, politicians, members of the police force and social worker’s immediate reaction is to take a moral stance. Statements are issued, in which violence is condemned and penalized. ‘Zero tolerance’ is the philosophy and the panacea against violence in schools and youth violence in public area. The Swiss Federal Government has launched a national campaign against youth violence.[2] Schools are obliged to implement courses in violence prevention in order to tackle the problem at its roots. We have to do something against this menace, seem to be the core message. Continue reading

Psychotherapy with Children in Switzerland

Psychotherapy with Children in Switzerland (In: The Japanese Journal of Play Therapy, 2012, Vol. 11, No. 1, p. 110-112)

«The reason why I immigrated into this country was the way psychotherapy was done with children!» a well established American Psychotherapist told me years ago, when I asked him what had motivated him to move to Switzerland. As native from Salt Lake City, Utah he read books written by Hans Zullinger, as Swiss psychologist living in Ittingen near Bern. Zullinger proposed a then revolutionary approach. Instead of instructing children what they should do, he suggested that we let them play. He was convinced, that children express their emotions, desires, wishes and complexes when they play. In play they express their soul. Zullinger was also certain, that play has a healing effect. By playing the child would mend emotional difficulties and problems. According to Zullinger our duty as psychotherapist is to establish a place and time, where they feel save and comfortable, so they can engage in playing. Their actions, their behaviour and decisions would reveal deeper emotions and help us understand them. According to him playing was not just a mean to decipher what was going on in the child, but also the key to resources. By playing a child would discover his or her potential and be able to develop new insights. Playing was a way to start a healing process. When playing the child would become more confident and gain a new perspective. Our role as psychotherapist was to encourage child to play and give the occasional input, in order to understand what was going. The psychotherapist functioned as facilitator and interpreter of a psychotherapeutic process.

The days of Zullinger are long gone. Most child psychotherapists don’t realize, that in his days Zulliger was a worldwide acknowledged psychotherapist. Since these days child psychotherapy in Switzerland has gone trough many changes. In the years after Zullinger’s death his psychotherapeutic approach was more and more criticised. The psychoanalytical jargon and interpretations were frowned upon and often considered to far fetch by some. How could a stick be a phallus-symbol or a pond of water a reminiscences of a possible child oedipal drama. The interpretations, which Zulliger offered, were considered too rigid. His postulation that free play therapy was a method, which enabled the child to unearth hidden potentials and energy survived though. Although one did not concentrate on play therapy the way Zullinger devised it, the use of play on therapy become accepted. Continue reading

Playfulness in Therapy

The Importance to Remain out of Focus: Playfulness in Therapy (In: The Japanese Journal of Play Therapy, 2011, Vol. 10, No. 1, p. 106 – 111)

«My mother locked me out on the balcony!» the twelve years old boy complains. He continues by telling me, that he did not do anything, is completely innocent. According to him his mother was against him mending his bicycle. She ignores his interest in bicycles! When a child tells us about an incident like that, we of course want to know, what happened. We ask questions and try to imagine, what had actually happened. There must have been a reason, why his mother locked him out. Mothers don’t usually lock out their children on the balcony and I know this mother not to be a nice, considerate person. In order to get to the roots of the issue I might challenge the child. Demand from him to relate again what had happened. I want to comprehend what went on between the boy and his mother. Was there a brawl? Did the boy misbehave? Did the mother or the boy have temper tantrum? In other words: I remain focused. I try to draw my attention to specific event and not get distracted or out of track.

The focused approach to challenges in our private and professional lives is generally considered as a powerful tool. In order to cope with a specific task or problem, we direct our energy to the specific problem. When we cook a meal, we pay attention to the menu, collect the necessary ingredients and study the recipe. When we fix our letter box, we choose the right bolts and use the correct hammer. The focused approach is valuable and important in order to cope with existential challenges  and problems. Thanks to the focused approach we avert dangers and make progress; many societal and private issues were solved because of our ability to concentrate. What we have to realize though: the focused approach is not a remedy for every issue. It is not a panacea for every problem and issue in our life. It is an approach to our private and professional issues, but in psychotherapy other approaches are equally valid. In psychotherapy the focused approach is not the only valid tool. Continue reading

Violence and conflicts in schools

Violence and Conflicts in Schools: How to empower students to help themselves with the help of Mythodrama (In: The Japanese Journal of Play Therapy, 2002, Vol 1, No. 1, p. 17 – 27)

First of all, I want to thank Tomoko for inviting me to Japan to talk about crises intervention and Mythodrama. For me this is a very pleasurable opportunity. Tomoko visited my institute and me many times and in the meantime I got to know many of her colleagues at Konohana. My colleagues and I were anxious to know more in detail about the activities and work of Tomoko. I am very happy to have this opportunity to get to know her work more and Konohana.

My lecture is divided up into two parts. First I will relate the way Switzerland is confronted with violence and conflicts in schools. I will then continue and explain our method of crises intervention, with the key element Mythodrama. I will depict how we make use of myths and stories in order to alleviate the problem of violence. Mythodrama is used in Crises interventions in schools. Originally Mythodrama was developed as a method in group therapy. In my position as director of the depart­ment for group psychotherapy for children and adolescents of the out-patient clinic of the educational counseling center of the state of Bern, I developed Mythodrama as a tool for working with children and adolescents with behavioral problems, for children and adolescents from bereaved families, or who have parents going through divorce, or for groups of young female or male adolescents. I will not talk about Mythodrama as a therapeutic tool however, but rather, about the way we implement it in crisis intervention in schools. Continue reading