He was my therapist for five years, off and on but only because I was chickenshit. I don’t know how old he was, but I’m guessing he had me by at least fifteen years – just enough to keep me almost humble.
He was a Jungian, that oddball strain of therapy that seems to me to be the Masonic Order of psychology, not exactly secretive but definitely peculiar and ritualistic. Maybe they’re more exotic than Masons so perhaps the better metaphor is from religion: Jungians are mystics in contrast to the monolithic hierarchy looking down from thrones.
He had been a Baptist minister in his previous life, before studying in Geneva (Switzerland, the Mecca for Jungians). That gave him an uncomfortable degree of insight into my vulnerabilities, which he used sparingly that I am aware of anyway.
I have been blessed to have several good counselors and therapists throughout my life, as well as a couple of really fine spiritual directors. Every guide needs a guide, and as Parker Palmer writes, the true work of a leader is his or her interior work.
The most hazardous leader is one who does not know him or her self well, and who moves reactively to his or her own demons rather than proactively toward a chosen direction. Because I am an intuitive leader more than a linear one – able to see where to go from the place I am standing but not necessarily the incremental steps to get there – being non-reactive is crucial if I am to keep from being distracted. Therapists, spiritual directors, and colleague groups are a crucial additional resource to my own community of family and friends.
Working with Karl turned out to be special. As much as anything, I think, it was encouraging me to tune back into my dreams. Jungians love dreams.
I taught myself how to remember dreams when I was a teenager, long before I even knew there was a method for it. Dreams had been an important piece of self-awareness for me well into my thirties, but then the disrupted sleep of a father with young children separated me from that part of my life. Karl helped me re-connect.
I am a dream machine these days and it causes me to miss Karl even more – he had a terrible stroke not long before I moved out of state. Moving (today!), finishing the novel I have been working on and so saying goodbye to the characters that have lived inside me all year, walking with a congregation facing a future radically different from its past, and my own children expanding their now autonomous lives, is churning the ocean within. I wake up each morning tuned into another dream, and often remembering other dreams that have played in the theater of my mind that night. I am listening, though not quite as carefully as I might were I still meeting with Karl.